Three Common Driving Offences Explained

We all know the dos and don’ts to bear in mind while we’re on the road, yet offences still take place across the UK every day. In fact, 2021 saw almost 2000 motorists banned from driving every week. Remember, receiving a driving penalty can cause your car insurance premium to rise, so it’s important to ensure you’re always driving on the right side of the law. Let’s take a closer look at three of the most frequently issued driving offences and the kind of penalties they can result in.

Driving penalties for speeding

Speeding can have catastrophic consequences, and 27% of fatal collisions recorded in Britain during 2020 involved a driver exceeding the speed limit2.

When surveyed, one in five of the UK’s drivers admitted to breaking the speed limit3, so it’s unsurprising that speeding is one of the most common driving offences on our roads. If you’re caught speeding, the minimum penalty is a £100 fine and three penalty points on your license. If you accumulate 12 penalty points or more on your license within three years, you could even be banned from driving.

If you’re caught out by a speed camera, you’ll receive a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) and a Section 172 notice within 14 days of the offence. It’s important that you acknowledge the Section 172 notice when you receive it in the post as you could face a court appearance if you ignore it. If a police officer catches you speeding and you’re pulled over, they’ll have the option to let you go with a verbal warning, send you a Fixed Penalty Notice or order you to go to court.

You may be given the option to attend a speed awareness course instead of receiving points on your license. To qualify for this, the police must decide that this course of action is suitable for your offence, and you can’t have attended a speed awareness course in the past three years.

Substance-related driving offences

Many motorists receive driving penalties for drink and drug-related driving offences. To drive in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you must be under the legal alcohol limit of 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood, or 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. Bear in mind that the limit is slightly lower in Scotland, at 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood and 22 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

It’s impossible to predict how much alcohol an individual can drink before being over the legal limit, so the only sure-fire way to know you’re safe is to avoid all alcohol before driving. It’s also a criminal offence to get behind the wheel whilst under the influence of drugs. Even legal drugs such as prescribed medication can impair your ability to drive safely, so always check with a healthcare professional before driving if you’re taking new medication.

If the police suspect you’re driving under the influence of drugs, they may pull you over and carry out a field impairment assessment. You’ll be instructed to carry out simple tasks like walking in a straight line, or you may be screened for the use of cannabis and cocaine using a roadside test.

If you’re caught driving under the influence of drugs, you could receive a driving ban for a minimum of one year, a fine, a prison sentence of up to six months and a criminal record.

Inadequate insurance cover

Driving without adequate insurance cover is another common driving offence, and around 6000 motorists are prosecuted for it every month4. The vehicle itself may be covered, but if you’re not insured to drive it then you could still be found guilty of breaking the law. To drive on a public road in the UK, you must have the minimum insurance cover – third party insurance.

Check your car insurance policy before driving a new vehicle, as you could receive a penalty for driving without insurance if you don’t have the correct level of cover. For example, vehicles aren’t automatically covered for business use, so you’ll need to check your policy before changing the way you use your car.

If you’re found guilty of driving without insurance, you may receive a fixed penalty of £300 and six penalty points on your license. Any penalty points will remain on your license for four years, and you’ll need to make future insurers aware of your penalty points for the next five years when renewing insurance.

You don’t even have to be caught driving the car to receive a fine, as vehicle owners can still receive a £100 penalty for an uninsured car parked on a public road. Once your car is identified as uninsured, police have the authority to seize, or even destroy it. Remember, if you declare your car as SORN, you need to store it on your own driveway or on private land and not on the road.

Find out more about car insurance with points or contact one of our expert advisors for more information on car insurance after receiving a driving penalty.

Sources:

  1. rospa.com: Speeding
  2. www.moneyshake.com: How 86,000 Brits lose their licence every year from one offence
  3. Ryanpeggs.com: UK motoring offence statistics 2020
  4. moneyexpert.com: Driving without insurance

About the Author

Chris North FCII is a respected industry leader with over 40 years' experience, who has worked in the insurance industry in a variety of roles, accumulating a wealth of knowledge. 

He is currently Technical Manager for Towergate's motor division, providing expertise on all matters relating to motor fleet insurance, in particular haulage and self-drive hire fleets.