This may sound like a rhetorical question, as most law-abiding citizens would assume, quite rightfully, that breaking a speed limit, or driving in a dangerous manner is a breach of the law. However, is it a criminal act? Most people would, quite correctly, assume not.
The majority of motoring offences are civil offences rather than criminal offences, and normally result in the issue of a fixed penalty notice, together with licence endorsement points being awarded to the driver.
The more serious motoring offences, such as causing injury or death by dangerous driving cross the boundary, and become criminal offences, carrying custodial sentences upon conviction.
So, does bad driving make you a criminal?
Bad driving does not by definition, make the perpetrator a criminal. However, there are proven scientific links between bad driving and a criminal past.
Generally, a person’s character and behaviour remains constant across a wide range of situations and circumstances. An individual who is habitually willing to break minor regulations will also demonstrate a tendency to disregard more serious laws and regulations.
In a New Zealand analysis of over 1500 drivers convicted of serious traffic offences, it was found that they were highly likely to have a criminal record for violence and anti social behaviour. It would appear then, that those who have accepted violence as an acceptable behaviour, would also continue to exhibit this behaviour when driving.
A study in 1998 focused on over 1000 individuals involved in serious motoring offences such as driving whilst disqualified, driving without insurance, and taking without owners consent. Of these offenders, 56% had six or more previous criminal convictions for offences such as theft, burglary, criminal damage and violence against the person.
Illegal parking is a frequent offence, even amongst inherently honest people. This may be because it is perceived as a very low level of dishonesty. An individual may assess the chance of receiving a parking ticket as an acceptable risk compared to the time and inconvenience of finding an authorised parking space.
However, parking in a space specifically reserved for disabled drivers is regarded differently. Honest and Ethical drivers will rarely park in such bays. Society generally finds this type of illegal parking as particularly contemptible, bearing in mind the status of the users entitled to use such spaces.
A study conducted by the UK’s Home Office Department (Chenery, Henshaw and Pease, 1999) revealed that of the cars parked illegally in disabled bays, 21% warranted immediate police attention. This could be due to the keeper being wanted for a crime, or where the vehicle registration was incorrect for the type and make of vehicle. This compares with less than 2% for those parked legally.
A third of disabled bay abusers were cars registered to keepers who had a criminal record, and in almost half of all cases the vehicle itself had a history of being used to commit traffic violations.
In 18% of disabled parking offences, the vehicle was known or suspected of being used in the commission of crime.
It is reasonable to assume that those who casually park in a space specifically reserved for disabled drivers when legal parking is locally available will also display greater delinquent behaviour in other aspects of their driving behaviour.
Recently, South Yorkshire Police released a report on the subject of Dangerous Driving. Preliminary research indicates that in a fatal road traffic collision, there is a fifty percent chance that the driver responsible holds a criminal record.
The BBC reported that research has also found that Van drivers, and drivers of Trucks involved in a collision are amongst the most likely to have either previous motoring offences (40%) or a criminal record (28%).
It would seem that an individual likely to engage in hazardous activities such as crime is also highly likely to take that acceptance of risk into the driving seat.
So, next time you are pushed for time, and can’t find a parking space, don’t be tempted to park in a disabled bay. Not only will you be denying the convenience of parking to someone who really needs it, but you may find that you are under scrutiny for other reasons!