The Daily Mail: Drivers pay out pounds 800m in fines

Thursday, 1 May, 2008

Motorists paid an estimated pounds 800 million in fines in 2006 after being caught by traffic wardens, police and speed cameras, figures showed yesterday.

In all, 12.7 million offences were committed, including speeding, using a mobile phone at the wheel and illegal parking.

On-the-spot fines rose while more serious offences punished by courts fell, leading to accusations that motorists are being exploited to bolster local authority funds.

Speed cameras and council staff trapped 9.8 million drivers, the equivalent of one in every three licensed vehicles.

Wardens handed out 7.8 million penalty charge tickets, an increase of 169,000 on the previous year, which account for six out of every 10 offences recorded. They covered obstruction, waiting and parking offences, such as not having the correct permit, or parking with a tyre on the kerb.

Matthew Elliott, the chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Councils are increasingly abusing the fines and charges system as a means of raising revenue.''

The penalty for obstruction in 2006 was pounds 60 outside London, or up to pounds 100 in the capital, although the total was halved if paid immediately. The maximum raised was estimated at about pounds 700 million.

Police handed out 3 million fixed penalty notices, mainly for speeding, of which 1.99 million were motorists caught by cameras. At pounds 60 each on average, the total raised by cameras could be as much as pounds 120 million.

David Ruffley , the shadow police minister, said: "The numbers of drivers being nicked by cameras rose by a colossal 615 per cent in 10 years, from 323,200 in 1997 to 1,986, 200 in 2006. This is another staggering statistic that tells us a lot about the surveillance society.''

The figures were released in the annual Ministry of Justice Motoring Offences and Breath Test Bulletin, which conceded that the overall chances of a motorist being trapped by the authorities has risen.

The report said: "The 12.7 million motoring offences dealt with during 2006 represents 422 per thousand vehicles licensed, compared with 401 per thousand in 1996.''

The number of drivers dealt with by police for using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel rose almost a third to 168,500, from 129,700 in 2005.

In 2006, 164,900 were fined for using a hand-held set, 2,700 were taken to court and 900 given a written warning.

Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat transport spokesman, said: "With more and more people driving carelessly and almost 170,000 people unable to break their mobile phone habit, it's clear the message about safe driving is not getting through.

"It is alarming that the number using mobiles whilst driving has risen, despite the obvious dangers. It has been banned for good reason.

"Talking on a hand-held mobile while driving must become as socially unacceptable as drink driving has.''