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The debate will be led by Selaine Saxby MP. 

The law

Several Acts of Parliament (chiefly the Road Traffic Act 1988, the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, and the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984) create road traffic offences. These Acts apply in totality in England and Wales and, in parts, to Scotland. Different legislation applies in Northern Ireland, but most road traffic offences and penalties are similar to those in Great Britain. 


Parliament sets maximum available sentences in legislation. The judiciary, then, will impose a sentence within that maximum on a case-by-case basis. 

Recent developments 

Most recently, Parliament has amended legislation related to certain road traffic offences in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (Part 5). Relevant changes include an increase of maximum penalties for certain offences, and the creation of a new offence of ‘causing serious injury by careless or inconsiderate driving.

Measures included in the Act were broadly welcomed by Parliamentarians and campaigners. However, areas of debate remain, including on issues like improving the understanding of the difference between ‘careless’ and ‘dangerous’ driving, the perception that penalties for failing to stop and report an accident are inadequate, or the proposition that police forces should be making a wider use of their power to require a suspect to stop driving as part of bail conditions whilst awaiting for trial for certain traffic offences.

Police enforcement of road traffic offences 

Police forces in England and Wales have broadly similar structures, with the majority of collisions investigated by specialist roads policing officers or non-specialist police officers, and only the most serious collisions investigated by a dedicated serious collision team.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has a dedicated Roads Policing Unit, which includes a Collision Investigation Unit to lead investigations into the most serious collisions. Police Scotland also has a national roads policing division.

Policing forces in Northern Ireland and Scotland have recently cited budgetary constraints. In Northern Ireland, this has resulted in a reduction in the number of specialist roads policing officers; Police Scotland also said they were reviewing roads policing functions due to these constraints. In 2020, an inspection of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services found that the number of dedicated roads policing officers had declined, and suggested that there was variation in terms of capacity and capability of roads policing across forces.

Debates around the effectiveness of police response to collisions 

There have been calls from organisations (including the All Party Parliamentary Group for Cycling and Walking) to implement changes to police responses to collisions, and road traffic investigations. For instance, voluntary organisations and solicitors told the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee that vital evidence from the scene of a collision was often lost and enquiries to secure witness statements or CCTV footage were not made. They suggested wider guidance and training to be rolled out to a wider pool of police officers, as most collisions will not be attended by specialist investigation units.

APPG for Cycling and Walking report on road justice

In September 2023, the APPG for Cycling and Walking published a report on road justice. This report contains several recommendations to public bodies, including the Sentencing Council, the Home Office, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and the Department for Transport, on a wide array of road traffic offence issues.

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