26th June 2015
A 42 year old man has recently become the first person in the UK to be convicted of careless driving after ‘hogging’ the middle lane of the M62 between Rochdale and Huddersfield.
Ian Stephens, a self-employed painter and decorator from Wigan, did not attend his court hearing because he “needed to go to work.” However, Leeds magistrates courts issued Mr Stephens with a £940 fine and 5 penalty points on his license, after he was said to have been driving in ‘an inconsiderate manner’ on the M62 last August.
This is believed to be the first court conviction of its nature, since the government made middle lane hogging illegal two years ago.
The police report claimed that Stephens was blocking at least six other vehicles, which had to brake and overtake him. However, speaking to Manchester Evening News, the grandfather of three defended his actions, saying:
“All three lanes were full and they were all busy. I had my ladders on the roof, there were a lot of vans in the inside lane. It was uphill and very windy.”
“I was still going faster than the lorries and articulated trucks on the inside lane. I honestly didn’t think I was doing anything wrong. I don’t drive like an idiot - I had a clean licence until this happened.”
“I’ve never been done for speeding, I’m not a reckless driver.”
“I didn’t even realise I’d been the first person to be convicted of this. I’ve seen plenty of other people doing it - everybody does on that motorway.”
“I didn’t put anybody in danger. I was going at 60mph and still making progress. I’m really going to feel this; it’s going to affect my business.”
Stephens also believes that he was made an example of because he is a white van driver.
In 2013 the police were given more powers to issue on-the-spot fines for careless driving, which includes a number of offences including tailgating, failing to give way at the junction and hogging the middle lane. Those that are caught driving carelessly risk a £100 fine and points on their licence.
Following the Stephens hearing, PC Nigel Fawcett-Jones of the Road Policing Unit said “dangerous ‘lane hogging’ caused congestion and inconvenience to other road users.”
Needless to say, middle lane hogging is inconsiderate of other road users, it wastes motorway capacity, causes congestion and forces other drivers to perform manoeuvres that greatly increase the chances of accidents.
The Highway Code says: ‘If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.’
However, in a recent survey performed by Direct Line; one in ten motorists in the UK admit to “always or “regularly” staying in the middle lane. The most common justifications given by those surveyed, included it is “easier” and “saves changing lanes”.
Writing in The Telegraph, Steve Huntingford says that penalty points and fines only address the symptom of the problem and not the cause.
He reports that ‘Many people look for any excuse not to change lanes is because they lack the confidence to do so. And that is down to the inadequacies of the current driving test, which simply doesn’t prepare people for many of the challenges they’ll face on the road, be it driving on motorways, in bad weather or at night.’
Several individuals and organisations in the UK in favour of introducing a graduated licensing system in the UK, where new drivers would be required to log several hours of experience driving in various conditions before qualifying for a full licence.
Huntingford reports that the government were primed to introduce graduated driving licences before the last general election, but were concerned that issue could divide the opinions of voters, so the proposals were subsequently parked.
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