Vital Safety Measure, Or Police Overreach..?

Essex Police are lobbying the Government for a change in the law after a crash that killed a teenager in Colchester.

Assistant Chief Constable Sue Harrison has asked for new powers to temporarily suspend a motorist’s licence if officers think they are unsafe to drive.

And what has led to this?

It comes after the death of Colchester Sixth Form College student Cassie McCord, 16.

She died after Colin Horsfall’s Vauxhall Astra veered off the road and fatally injured her, in Head Street, on Feburary 7.

Following the incident, it emerged Mr Horsfall, 87, from Rowhedge, had been involved in an accident at the Tesco petrol station in High Woods, days earlier, and was set to have his licence revoked.

He was still allowed to get behind the wheel because he had not received the revocation notice from the DVLA.

So there’s two ways to take this:

1) the police, in a desperate attempt to grab yet more arbitrary power for themselves, are using this hideous accident as leverage, or

2) the police, recognising that this is a severe loophole that could ensure dangerous drivers are free until bureacracy catches up, are seeking to keep everyone safe.

Certainly, we are told that b) is how the police see it:

An Essex Police spokesman said: “Senior officers at Essex Police have raised this issue at a national level to seek a change in the law, to allow police an additional power to temporarily suspend a driving licence, until a medical examination can be undertaken, where drivers are found to be potentially unsafe.

“For example, a driver who fails a police roadside eyesight test would have their licence suspended immediately. This action would provide additional protection to other road users.”

Which way you jump on this will, I suspect, tell us a lot about your faith in our relationship with the police. And with the state.

24 comments for “Vital Safety Measure, Or Police Overreach..?

  1. PT
    June 1, 2011 at 11:46 am

    Well, at its simplest, every human being alive is “potentially” unsafe to drive. A driver who glances into the back seat to tell off a fractious child has revealed a lapse of judgement which, it could be argued, might, if repeated, cause an accident. Almost anything might lead to an accident; medical conditions are a classic, but police officers are not doctors, to make such judgements. Even a simple cold can cause a sneeze, as can dust, pollen, etc. There is even in law a specific defence called automatism, which excuses a driver’s momentary loss of control under such circumstances. A choleric disposition might make a driver unsafe. Eczema might force a driver to scratch an intolerable itch, which could be unsafe. Inattention due to gawping at other, attractive road users might make a driver unsafe.
    We all accept and live with these risks, or at least we do so far, and it would be impossible to specify each and every cause and circumstance which might make a person unfit to drive. It would be possible, I suppose, for a police officer to have the power to arrest a driver and bring that driver IMMEDIATELY before a court for assessment as to fitness to drive, but to give a police officer the power to effectively punish by disqualifying a driver at the roadside for a “temporary” but unspecified period, for what may be an entirely specious reason, gives way, way too much power to the police.

  2. dearieme
    June 1, 2011 at 11:53 am

    This would allow the police to suspend my licence for failure to be PC enough. Not on.

    • June 2, 2011 at 5:34 am

      Yes, it’s easy to see how it could be abused, and no doubt would be…

  3. June 1, 2011 at 12:07 pm

    …if officers think

    Not good enough. Not good enough by a country mile. “1” it is, then.

    • June 1, 2011 at 6:36 pm

      I agree. Not good enough.

  4. derek M
    June 1, 2011 at 12:50 pm

    Since when are the police sufficiently medically trained to descide if someone is fit to drive. This is the sort of attitude you find in a police state. I believe that the driver concerned was taken ill at the wheel, so no proir medical examination would have been able to predict this.

    It is not possible to do an accurate eyesight test at the roadside. This idea just shows how out of touch with reality the police are becomming.

    • June 2, 2011 at 5:35 am


  5. Westerlyman
    June 1, 2011 at 12:55 pm

    1 it is. I am against the whole idea of potential crime.

    If it is proved that this driver killed the teenager because he is unfit to drive then throw the book at him because he should have been responsible enough to take himself off the road.

    However banning someone who has not caused harm is completely wrong.

    • June 2, 2011 at 5:36 am

      Sadly, the driver died himself without leaving hospital. And though this appears to have been a totally unforeseen accident, the police are now claiming precognitive abilities.

      Ones strangely lacking in the Ian Tomlinson case..

    • Bollixed
      June 4, 2011 at 4:29 am

      The very phrase ‘potential crime’ in this context makes me shudder. How very authoritarian of them.

  6. David
    June 1, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Buy a vehicle outside the UK and do not register it once you’re back here.

    • June 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      Doesn’t work. You have six months to register the vehicle and the police do check. If they catch you, they take the vehicle.

      • Lord T
        June 1, 2011 at 5:32 pm

        Buy a scrapper from abroad then. the saving in tax, insurance and maintenance will more than justify the trip.

        • June 1, 2011 at 5:45 pm

          if the costs and bureaucracy are comparable to what I went through importing vehicles into France, that’s doubtful.

          • dearieme
            June 1, 2011 at 10:46 pm

            Buy in the Republic, drive into NI and across to Stranraer on the ferry. Done. Would that work?

          • Bollixed
            June 4, 2011 at 4:37 am

            Have you seen the cost of road tax in Oirland these days? I did however drive a UK plate in Oirland for 3 years (fully insured, MOT-ed, and road taxed obviously). I refused to pay Oirish car prices and road tax. Garda used to just wave me on and I never paid a parking ticket.

            Funny story I heard that the Oirish Gards were worried that they were catching so many speeding Poles with the same name. Worried it was a scam. Turned out they were reading the Polish driving licence wrong and putting down the Polish for ‘Driving Licence’ instead of the driver’s actual name. Some Poles got wise to this and started telling the Gards that their name was indeed ‘Driving Licence’ (in Polish) while pointing at their licence.

            It does indeed pay to drive a foreign plate. Saved me a small fortune over the years. 😆

  7. June 1, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    How very Minority Report – Department of Traffic Pre-Crime. 🙄

  8. June 1, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    What determines “potentially unsafe?” How is the police officer trained to make that decision? Have some criteria been determined to make that decision?

    This sounds like government over reach, something people in New York have experienced: New York has a new eliminated several children’s games from the camp fields including wiffle ball, capture the flag, freeze tag, red rover, kickball and worse of all, dodgeball.

    When will these unwarranted intrusions end?

    • June 2, 2011 at 5:37 am

      When enough people stand up and say ‘Enough! No more!’ instead of ‘Oooh, they’ve got a point, you can’t be too careful, after all’…

  9. PPS
    June 1, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    until a medical examination can be undertaken

    Who pays?

    • PT Barnum
      June 2, 2011 at 12:22 am

      The driver pays, but I regret to say the medical test for driving seems to be utterly inadequate since a relative of mine, who is an active danger to all road users due to a medical condition, was granted a two year licence to carry on driving. He exists in a total state of denial and anyone (his wife, his sons) who attempts to take away his car keys meets with violence. I hoped the DVLA would see things clearly, but nope, he met their criteria. Perhaps they should have asked the family, none of whom will get in a car driven by him.

      • June 2, 2011 at 5:39 am

        The criteria clearly need tightening up, then!

  10. June 2, 2011 at 9:47 am

    The police are in no position to decide who is unsafe to drive, to the point of taking their licence off them at the roadside.
    The potential for abuse is enormous, as is the potential for extending use of these powers to almost any reason.
    The police should not be lobbying for more laws or powers. They are a tool with a purpose and no more.
    This case is probably a fairly unique one and is just being used to further an agenda.

Comments are closed.