London, 3 June 2000.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Driver Persecution Enters New Waters
First it was Kit Kats, now its Mineral Water!
As motorist Kevin Storey recovers from his treatment at the hands of Hampshire police - who fined him for taking a bite from a Kit Kat on the M3, only to cancel the ticket under public pressure - the Association of British Drivers condemns another case of excessive police zeal directed at a motorist. Linda Smart, seen taking a drink from a bottle of mineral water at traffic lights in Wiltshire, was pulled over a mile up the road and fined by traffic cops.

Ms Smart was stationary at the time of her quick drink, and so asserts that she was in full control of her vehicle at all times. The longest period of time one hand was off the wheel was to change gear as she drove away.

ABD spokesman Bernard Abrams is quick to point out the dangers of driving without full control of a vehicle but adds:

"This case shows how petty the police have become when dealing with matters such as this. After all, if Ms Smart had stolen the bottle, hit somebody with it, or used it to cool the enthusiasm of the police officer, she would not have been immediately criminalised in this cursory manner - a caution without financial penalty would have been likely in any area other than driver behaviour."
ABD Chairman Brian Gregory adds:
"Wiltshire's Chief Constable has some explaining to do. We must not be complacent, but nor should we forget that our roads are the safest in Europe and amongst the very safest in the developed world, while our position in the global league tables for burglary and violent crime are an embarrassment to the police, whose priorities are wrong and out-of-touch with both reality and public opinion."
Gregory continues:
"The way to improve road safety further is not to alienate perfectly safe drivers with this kind of pointless ticketing for irrelevant "offences" but to concentrate on the really bad driving which so often festers away without any police attention."
Traffic police are gathering a dubious reputation as the nation's most gung-ho and least discretionary division. Two years ago they fined a GP for speeding to a patient who later died, and in 1996 they arrested a businessman for minor traffic offences (which he had admitted) as he was about to catch a holiday flight. Last weekend Gloucestershire police caused traffic chaos in Cheltenham with roadblocks, checkpoints, video units, a helicopter, road closures, car park closures and dozens of officers mobilised. Not to deal with the rising tide of burglary and assault in the county, but an influx of young drivers arriving for a 'car cruise'. For this vast deployment of costly resources, it is understood that one minor traffic offence was detected.

The ABD says:


Notes for Editors