Wreckless Driving: Unequality In Front Of The Law


Actor Steven Coogan has had a six-month driving ban reduced to 2 months, after having successfully argued that it was inconceivable that his TV character Alan Partridge be seen on public transport.

I have received several fines for driving above the speed limit, but never in built-up areas. There is no points system in the Netherlands and you just receive a fine that is indexed on how much over the limit you were driving.

In France, I was stopped once by the police for having driven (safely, I might add) through a red traffic light. I was in a hurry because I had a sick cat in the back of the car who was making as much noise as a cat can make. The policeman wrote me a ticket after I admitted quite frankly that I did not stop. He then went on to tear up the ticket saying that, “you have been so honest with me that I’m going to let you off.”

Honesty is the fundamental building brick for all laws. They represent a set of rules that, if all is well, are democratically discussed and democratically voted for. A country depends on its laws to function properly.

The court’s decision to only partially apply the law that would have prevented Steve Coogan driving for three months is baffling to say the least. Coogan has a history of bad driving and has had plenty of time and warnings to adjust is way of driving and respect the highway code that applies to us all.

It also poses the moral question of whether sanctions that are dictated by law can be reduced for repeated infringements of the said law.

I can quite understand a judge being lenient for a first-time speeding offence committed by a driver whose job depends on possessing a driving licence, but this is surely not the case here. The TV programme featuring Alan Partridge would just have to be delayed for an extra few months. It would not have been the end of the world.

But imagine this – imagine that when Steven Coogan does get his driving license back he is involved in a fatal car crash where a child is killed. The crash was no fault of his own but he just happened to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. and it’s the latter that causes problems because had the original sanction been applied, he should not have been there at all.

The highway code comprises a set of rules and corresponding sanctions that enforce a driver’s responsibility towards others. Stopping at a red light, something that I did not do, not only involves letting other drivers through, but also more often than not, letting pedestrians safely cross a busy road. Driving over the enforced speed limit, especially in a built-up area, also involves responsibility towards, and protection of, others. The speed at which you drive directly influences the degree of danger that you pose.

Not having any points left on his driving licence is a reflection of Coogan’s repeated infringements of the highway code. He has received sufficient warnings to be able to adapt his way of driving to comply with the highway code. He should now bare the full consequences of his conduct – a six-month ban. Not only is this the just thing to do but it may save someone’s life.