Motoring law is designed to cut the risk of accidents. It makes sense to stick to the rules for safety reasons, but aside from the danger, bad driving can cost you dearly.
Road traffic offences can vary from the very serious – such as causing death by dangerous driving which can result in a 14-year prison sentence – to the very minor such as parking for too long which will incur a fine.
The courts have powers to disqualify you from driving if the offence is serious enough. Disqualification periods can last from days to years. For some offences, the disqualification is obligatory – although the court can take into account special reasons to make the period shorter.
Endorsements and penalty points
If you're convicted of a motoring offence the courts can fine you and endorse your licence with penalty points. Endorsements stay on your licence for either four or 11 years depending on the seriousness of the offence.
Endorsements stay for 11 years if the offence is:
- Causing death through careless driving when unfit through drink or drugs or with an alcohol level above the limit
- Causing death by careless driving then failing to provide a specimen for analysis
- Driving or attempting to drive with alcohol above the legal limit or while unfit through drink
- Driving or attempting to drive then failing to provide a specimen for analysis
- Driving or attempting to drive, then refusing permission for analysis of a blood sample that was taken without consent due to incapacity
- Refusing permission for analysis of a blood sample that was taken without consent due to incapacity in circumstances other than driving or attempting to drive
All other endorsements stay on your licence for four years
Totting up penalty points
If you build up 12 or more penalty points within 3 years, you’re likely to be automatically disqualified under the 'totting-up' system. It will usually be for 6 months, and will be at least 12 months if you've had a previous 'totting up' disqualification in less than a year.
It might sound like a new offence but Careless Driving is actually Driving without due care and attention by another name. It is currently punishable in several ways. For less serious offences there’s a fixed penalty notice fine of £100 and three penalty points. If you don’t agree with the punishment you can challenge it by going to court.
More serious apparent Careless Driving offences will be summonsed to appear in court. If a case goes to court, the maximum penalty is a £5000 fine and between three and nine penalty points.
The prosecution will only succeed if it can prove that your driving fell below the standard expected of a competent driver or that you didn’t show reasonable consideration for other pedestrians or road users.
The much more serious offence of Dangerous Driving results in disqualification and can lead to a custodial sentence.
Don't do this at the wheel
Careless Driving can entail anything from tailgating and overtaking on the inside lane to handbrake turns and wheel spins. Drivers have been fined for doing various activities while driving including applying make-up, texting, shaving, dropping litter, eating an apple and drinking water.
Some of these might sound petty but research has found that 22 per cent of crashes could be caused by driver distraction. Experts have also found that 98 per cent of drivers are unable to divide their attention while at the wheel without a deterioration in their driving performance. One study found that eating when it involves a driver unwrapping food on the go slows reactions by 44 per cent, which is more than texting.
If you reach a total of six points within two years of passing your test, you'll no longer be a qualified driver, and will have to retake the practical and written tests.
You now need to make sure that, even if your car is sitting in the garage unused, it is insured. Unless, that is, you have made a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) or the car is in the process of being transferred to a new owner.
Points mean price rises
Most insurers will consider you a bigger risk for earning penalty points, and so the cost of your insurance is likely to rise.
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