Speeding plea as fines quadruple
A mother whose two-year-old son was one of eight people who died in a horrific road crash has spoken of the need for motorists to "break the habit of speeding to prevent more needless deaths".
Tracey Mohabir's comments came as the Government announced a four-fold increase in fines available to magistrates, meaning motorway speeders could be forced to pay up to £10,000.
Mrs Mohabir's son Marcus was travelling with his father Steve and two friends, Toby and Kate Beasley, when their Land Rover was hit by a speeding BMW which crashed through the central reservation on the A23 near Pycombe, Sussex, on May 16 2004.
The Beasleys were also killed, as were all five occupants, aged between 17 and 20, in the BMW. At an inquest, the coroner said the BMW was going too fast and travelling too close to the vehicle in front.
Mr Mohabir was badly injured in the crash. He suffered a crushed vertebra that left him unable to return to his job as a chef. Trapped in the wreckage, he held his dying son's hand as rescue teams battled to free them
Mrs Mohabir, from Surrey, said: "In the 10 years since the crash, Steve and I have tried to move on. But I still think constantly about the day we lost Marcus and our friends Toby and Kate. We have since had another child, Max, who has grown up without ever having known his brother. He often asks about him.
"I think about the other families a lot, and I feel incredibly sorry for all of them. The loss of life not only affects family but has a ripple effect on friends, colleagues and others who have to pick up the pieces."
She went on: "Many other families have lost loved ones on our motorways and dual carriageways since we lost Marcus, often as a result of people driving too fast and too close to other vehicles.
"Driving over the speed limit has become a habit for many people, and it's a habit we have to break to prevent yet more needless deaths and injuries."
In other areas of the Government sentencing plans, disorderly drunks could be fined £4,000.
Courts will also be able to levy unlimited fines for the first time for the most serious crimes dealt with in the lower courts - such as environmental offences - which at present attract penalties of up to £5,000 or more.
Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said the dramatic hike - the first since 1991 and for which the Government paved the way in legislation passed two years ago - would give magistrates the "greater powers" needed to punish offenders.
But motoring groups said the new fines were disproportionate and could put people off challenging unfair speeding tickets.
Magistrates' court guidelines set out how the appropriate level of punishment should be determined according to the seriousness of the offence.
Under the proposed changes, the maximum in each category will increase from:
:: Level 1 - £200 to £800. Includes unauthorised cycle racing on public ways.
:: Level 2 - £500 to £2,000. Includes driving a motorcycle without a protective helmet.
:: Level 3 - £1,000 to £4,000. Includes the sale of alcohol to a drunk person or being drunk and disorderly in a public place.
:: Level 4 - £2,500 to £10,000. Includes speeding on the motorway.
Mr Wright said: "Financial penalties set at the right level can be an effective way of punishing criminals and deterring them from further offending.
"Magistrates are the cornerstone of our justice system and these changes will provide them with greater powers to deal with the day-to-day offences that impact their local communities."
The amount of fines collected reached an all-time high of £284 million at the end of 2012/13 and remains on an upward course.
AA president Edmund King said: "For the vast majority of drivers, the prospect of the existing £2,500 fine is a pretty good deterrent against excessive speeding on the motorway.
"We would not condone excessive speeding in any way but fines have to be proportionate to the offence and one has to question whether increasing the fines four-fold is proportionate, and it probably is not.
"If we had more cops in cars on the motorway that would be a much more effective deterrent."
Rupert Lipton, director of the National Motorists Action Group, said it was " disproportionate and draconian".
He said: "I think it will have a serious chilling effect. We will find motorists will be deterred from going to court where they don't believe they are guilty of an offence and there is a potential challenge."
The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 allowed for magistrates to be given the power to impose unlimited fines for some offences but the Government is only now tabling legislation to put that into effect.
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "People who break the law should bear the consequences but this seems such a wholesale change to the system so you have to ask what was going so badly wrong before?
"Ironically, we know that speeding offences have declined over recent years and just last week the Department for Transport confirmed that, even after taking congestion out of the equation, recorded traffic speeds have been dropping for a decade on all types of roads."
James McLoughlin, a spokesman for road safety charity Brake, said: "We are supportive of tougher penalties for speeding drivers.
"Speed is one of the biggest killers on our roads and, through the support we provide for victims of road crashes, we bear witness to the devastating effects of speeding.
"Limits are there for a reason, and more needs to be done to deter those who choose to put other road users at risk by breaking them."
Pete Williams, head of external affairs at the RAC, said: "What we're seeing is an ever-increasing level of fines and penalties for motorists coming out of Whitehall with little to no improvement in how these are enforced.
"While legislation clearly needs to act as a deterrent, there seems little point in making such massive hikes without the proper infrastructure to back it up.
"Many motorists who do speed or use their mobile at the wheel don't think they will get caught, despite the already-significant fines.
"When will we hear the Government is investing in better road safety awareness campaigns and police on the roads, rather than just doling out what looks like revenue-boosting punishment?"
Meanwhile, Norfolk Police are urging motorcyclists not to "dice with death" after a rider was caught speeding at 134mph on the A11.
The rider, a man in his mid-20s, has been reported for offences of speeding and failing to stop at a red light following the incident on bank holiday Monday, May 26, at around 3am.