Driving Offences and the Law

Read what our Consultant Solicitor, Jonathan Dunkley, has to say about driving offences and the law in this month’s edition of Luxe Magazine.

Jonathan Dunkley Consultant Solicitor

Loopholes and the law: speeding offences

We are all fiercely defensive of our driving licenses. We are certainly quick to defend any suggestion that we have driven in a way that might be criticised or would even earn us penalty points.

But national treasure David Beckham copped some flak recently when he successfully defended an allegation of speeding through Knightsbridge in his Bentley. Though, he didn’t deny he was speeding. Beckham simply pointed out (through the redoubtable Mr Loophole) that the police had not notified him of the offence within the 14 days they are required to do so.

I’m not sure that criticism is justified. After all, if the police want to prosecute those who break the law, then they ought to ensure that they don’t do likewise. Similarly, if the equipment they use to catch driving offences is inaccurate or inadequately maintained, then this may prevent a motorist from being wrongly convicted. This applies to all sorts of driving offences and not just speeding.

Anyone at risk of prosecution from a motoring offence should contact a specialised and experienced road traffic lawyer. They can ask their solicitor to apply a toothcomb of the finest conceivable mesh to the evidence in his or her case. If the police case is not made out, that evidence should be tested at trial.

What about driving offences with a mobile phone?

The relatively new offence of using a handheld device while driving carries a minimum of 6 points.

Some police officers (and lawyers) don’t fully understand what does and what does not constitute handheld device driving offences. What if you are simply reading a text which has arrived on your phone when it has been safely docked in your windscreen holder? What if you are holding it in an automatic vehicle but simply using it as a sat-nav? Does it make any difference if you downloaded the map first and weren’t relying on the internet to produce images of the route map?

Well, the law on driving offences is quite specific.

Regulation 110(4) defines a handheld device as a device which performs an interactive communication function by transmitting and receiving data. Additionally, regulation 110(6)(c) provides a non-exhaustive list of “interactive communication functions” such as:

  • Sending or receiving oral or written messages
  • Sending or receiving facsimile documents
  • Providing access to the internet

So, anything involving communication or data is a driving offence, if the device is held in your hands at any stage of the process.

Sending a picture? 6 points. Taking a picture? Not an offence under these regulations. Comedian Jimmy Carr had the last laugh (again, with the help of Mr Loophole) after his conviction was set aside. Carr had satisfied the court that he was using his phone as a dictating machine and not interactive. Therefore, it was not classed as an offence.

But any experienced road traffic solicitor will always stress how important it is to follow the law. Under Section 41(D)(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988, every driver must avoid distraction at all times. Furthermore, drivers should always be in full control of their vehicle.

Why driving offences are increasing across the UK

More people and their families depend on the breadwinner’s ability to drive. There are progressively more regulatory driving offences, plus a huge increase in fixed and covert speed cameras.

The number of drivers who are being brought before the courts is also increasing sharply. These drivers should always take specialist advice before deciding how to respond.

After all, the penalties for most driving offences are severe and involve the imposition of penalty points. These points remain on your licence for 3 years. Moreover, if you accumulate 12 or more points within that time frame, you will be disqualified from driving for a minimum of 3 years. The penalty will remain, unless you can establish (and the onus is on you) that this would cause you or others exceptional hardship.

However, magistrates and district judges are becoming much more sceptical when it comes to exceptional hardship. The key to a successful outcome lies in the most careful preparation and presentation of your case. You should always take advice from a professional who is experienced in this highly-specialised field.

Read more about the numerous driving offences and their penalties here. Or if you need expert advice from a road traffic solicitor, contact the dedicated team at Major Family Law for a free, initial consultation.