West Yorkshire Driver First to Be Convicted of Hogging Middle Lane
A motorist in West Yorkshire has been slapped with the first conviction for hogging the middle lane of a motorway.
It is thought to be the first time that anyone has been charged with the new offence, which was introduced as part of a package of motoring legislation changes back in 2013. The offence took place on the east-bound lane of the M62 close to Huddersfield, and the driver received five penalty points and a near £1,000 fine.
The motorist was driving a Citroen Berlingo van and was stopped on the busy stretch of the M62 after traffic police observed him repeatedly failing to move out of the central lane and return to the nearside lane as demanded by the Highway Code. As a result of the motorist's actions, around six vehicles had to brake and then swerve in order to avoid the van, which was travelling on 25 August, 2014.
The case was heard at Leeds Magistrates’ Court, where the court heard that the motorist had s number of chances to safely return to the nearside lane but did not do so. The police giving evidence said that instead the driver drove in an inconsiderate manner for a number of miles and in doing so inconvenienced a large number of other road users. The driver of the van was not present in court but was fined £500 and had to pay £400 costs and was also slapped with a £40 victim surcharge, giving him a total fine of £940. His licence was also endorsed with five penalty points, which the court heard would send out a strong signal to other road users that such behaviour was unacceptable.
Motoring organisations say that the case represents the first time that anyone has been charged under the new law, which was part of a package of measures brought in during 2013 to tackle inconsiderate driving. The government brought in the new law to stop drivers from staying in the middle lane of the motorway when there was a clear opportunity to move back into the left-hand lane. According to traffic researchers, such behaviour causes one third of the capacity of the motorway to be cut off, which results in traffic jams and long delays.
One of the police officers involved in the case said that hogging the middle lane was dangerous and inconvenienced other motorists. He added that it slashed the motorway capacity and also encouraged frustrated drivers to tailgate the offending vehicle in an effort to get it to move over. This in turn could cause high-speed accidents that could be extremely serious. The police force have reported that motorists often tell traffic officers that such behaviour is a real problem on our motorways, and the conviction shows that the court system is taking such concerns seriously and handing down stiff punishments.
Despite this success, court statistics tell us that very few people are being prosecuted under the new laws, and the AA says that this is due to the reduced number of traffic police on the roads due to government cutbacks. This reduces the capability of forces to enforce the new laws. Nevertheless, a spokesman for the organisation said that most drivers would welcome the news of a conviction, as the practice is widely regarded as one of the most common and irritating on the road network.
A recent poll of UK motorists asked 2,000 drivers who admitted hogging the middle lane of the motorway exactly why they did it, and some 43% said it was because it made their journey easier and saved them the bother of having to change lanes. It remains to be seen whether or not this first conviction for lane hogging acts as a deterrent and begins to cut down the incidence of such annoying and dangerous behaviour.