Magistrates have hit out at the proposal to make careless driving a fixed penalty offence.

Under the proposals, the Government would lump the serious offence of careless driving (currently dealt with in court) with the less serious offence of speeding (dealt with at the roadside).

If the proposals went though, more people would be pressured to accept a ticket for the offence, according to the Magistrates Association. The knock-on for fleets would be an increase in insurance costs because the offence is more serious than speeding and drivers are unlikely to realise this at the time.

Chris Hunt-Cooke, chairman of the MA’s road traffic committee, said: “Police officers may have seen the incident themselves, in which case they will be acting as witness, prosecutor, judge and jury, deciding on guilt and then sentencing the offence.”

In the MA’s statement on the matter it added: “Drivers who choose to appeal against the fixed penalty by going to court would risk a higher number of penalty points or a disqualification, and a very much higher fine, so there would be quite disproportionate pressure not to dispute the penalty notice, regardless of whether they really accept their guilt. Drivers who may have a reasonable defence should not be coerced in this way; it is simply unjust.”

The MA also raised the point that more serious offences may go unnoticed, something that could harm a businesses risk management policy. “Faced with the choice between the heavy burden of taking the matter to court and the simplicity of issuing a fixed penalty, it is certain that many police officers will opt for a fixed penalty, however bad the driving may be. No one will know if this happens in a particular case, as the offender is hardly likely to complain,” said a spokesman for the MA.