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First conviction over middle-lane driving

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A van driver from the North-west has become the first person to be convicted under new anti-social driving legislation. But is the law having the desired effect?


Traffic on UK motorway

A van driver has become the first motorist in the UK to be convicted under laws introduced to crack down on middle-lane hogging.

Legislation to ban "inconsiderate" driving, which also includes tailgating and undertaking, was introduced in 2013.

Option to pay a fine

Usually, drivers who are suspected of such offences are given on-the-spot fines of £100 as well as three points on their licences

But in June, 42-year-old painter and decorator Ian Stephens of Wigan, Greater Manchester, was convicted of anti-social driving in Leeds Magistrates’ Court after he refused to accept an initial fine.

In total, Stephens had to pay £940 in fines and costs and was hit with a five-point licence penalty.

He did not appear in court, but has since denied the allegations against him.

Early offender

Stephens was stopped by police on the M62 motorway in West Yorkshire in August 2013 shortly after the new law had been introduced.

Officers said he had remained in the middle lane over several miles despite numerous opportunities to pull into the left-hand lane, and had caused disruption and difficulties for other motorists.

PC Nigel Fawcett-Jones from West Yorkshire police said middle-lane hogging was an especially dangerous practice.

He said: "It reduces the capacity of roads and motorways, and can lead to dangerous situations where other drivers tailgate the vehicle in front to try and get the lane-hogger to move over."

'Cause of aggravation'

Simon Williams, spokesman for the RAC, said: "RAC research shows that drivers who stay in the middle lane of a motorway and don’t move over when they can are a cause of aggravation for 58% of motorists.

"Poor lane discipline and therefore keeping to the left unless overtaking is a basic tenet of driving that unfortunately appears to have been forgotten about by a growing number of motorway drivers."

Williams added: "It is therefore good news that a driver has finally been prosecuted in court for this offence, albeit almost two years after it became an offence.

"Hopefully this will send a very clear message to other drivers who are guilty of doing this that they need to break the habit."

'Harder to challenge'

Jeanette Miller, a motoring lawyer with Geoffrey Miller Solicitors, said: "Lane-hogging was brought to the forefront when police powers to issue on-the-spot fines for careless or inconsiderate driving changed in 2013.

"Careless driving is defined in law as driving that falls below the standard of a competent driver."

However, Miller added she was not convinced the new powers were appropriate.

"Middle-lane drivers who cause others to swerve and overtake them are now prime targets because the police can deal with them far more easily than they could before their powers were extended.

"But this is a double-edged sword: the ability to issue on-the-spot penalties also makes innocent motorists more vulnerable to unfounded allegations being made."

Miller added: "If police officers can issue fixed penalties with more ease, there should be a simple and easy way to challenge the allegation.

"Instead a motorist must go through the complex and costly process of challenging the allegations through the magistrates' court."

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