Research by Cycling UK has highlighted the shocking scale of a loophole that allows dangerous drivers to escape automatic driving bans; almost one in five drivers who accumulate 12 penalty points manage to escape bans by arguing disqualification would result in “exceptional hardship”.
A Parliamentary question from Labour Peer Lord Berkeley revealed that between 2011 and 2020 there were 83,581 cases of people who avoided a ban due to “mitigating circumstances”, equating to one in five (8,358) drivers with 12 points or more escaping bans every year.
Lord Berkeley says this shows the exemption is not working as it was designed to.
“Exempting one in five drivers is wrong,” he said. “It should be one in five hundred. At present, anyone who can afford a loophole lawyer can join the 85,000 drivers who get off. A better alternative would be for drivers to think of the consequences before they break the law.”
Cycling UK recently published a report detailing case studies of road users killed by motorists who had escaped disqualification after pleading exceptional hardship. This report included the heart breaking cases of Lee Martin and Louis McGovern, both killed by people who, despite multiple offences, had escaped driving bans by claiming “exceptional hardship.”
- Lee Martin, a 48-year-old father of two, was killed while cycling on the A31 in Hampshire in August 2015. He was hit by a van driven by Christopher Gard, who was sending a text message while driving at 65mph. Gard had been spared from a driving ban just six weeks earlier despite accumulating 12 points in one year, all for offences related to use of a mobile phone while driving.
- Louis McGovern 30, was riding his motorbike home from work in Stockport in January 2019 when he was struck and dragged under a van driven by Kurt Sammon, who had jumped a red light. Sammon had also been sending messages and making a call prior to the accident. Three months earlier, Sammon appeared in court after being caught using a phone while driving on the motorway on two occasions. He had previously been jailed for six months for killing a 13-year-old schoolboy, Michael Weaver, in 2004, while driving without insurance or MOT, and failing to stop or report the accident. Despite this record of dangerous driving, Sammon successfully argued that losing his licence would affect his job and his caring responsibilities to his mother.
Louis McGovern’s father, Mark, wrote to North Cheshire magistrates to ask why, despite his appalling driving record, Sammon was allowed to keep his licence when he appeared before them. The magistrates admitted that “no formal risk assessments are carried out, however magistrates are made aware of the details of any endorsements that are on an individual’s driving licence, though it doesn’t include details as to the facts of those cases.”
“It is shocking to be told that 1 in 5 drivers keep their licence by claiming ‘exceptional hardship’ when facing a driving ban under the totting up process,” he said.
Cycling UK is campaigning for the exceptional hardship loophole to be closed. The charity has an online action through which people can write to their MPs to encourage them to take action to help fix our failing traffic laws.
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