Driving Matters: Driving Offences Explained
The majority of us wouldn’t dream of committing a criminal offence. However, motoring and driving offences are dealt with under the Criminal Justice System. Minor offences are often disposed of under the fixed penalty notice system, since by nature they are less serious. Minor driving offences, amongst numerous others, include:
- Low level speeding
- Failing to comply with a traffic signal
- Using a mobile phone whilst driving (though this has increased in seriousness over the years and continues to be reviewed)
- Using a vehicle with defective tyres
- Unlawful pillion riding
Major driving offences move matters to the Magistrates Courts. These infringements include:
- Drink driving
- Driving under the influence of drugs
- Driving whilst disqualified
- Dangerous driving
- Failing to stop after an accident
- Failing to report an accident
- Driving without insurance
- Drunk in charge of a vehicle
There are fundamental distinctions between careless driving and dangerous driving. It’s important to know the difference in case you ever face a penalty, fine or ban from driving offences.
Driving Offences Explained
Careless Drivers – CD10 Drivers
None of us think we’re careless drivers. In fact, many of us take severe offence if anyone else criticises our driving ability.
What is careless driving? This is when a driver allows his/her standard of driving to fall below that of the competent and careful driver. You may be found guilty of careless driving offences, but it isn’t always clear cut. Therefore, it can be argued in court to have the charge rebutted or mitigated.
Like many driving offences, careless driving has a range of seriousness but could include:
- Excessive speed
- Eating or drinking at the wheel
- Driving when tired or ill
- Driving inappropriately close to another vehicle
- Fiddling with the radio
- Carrying overweight goods or paying passengers
- Swerving or using the wrong lane at a roundabout
I remember one elderly lady was stopped by the police for approaching a roundabout at what they thought was excessive speed. Veronica was driving her recently purchased Renault 5 Turbo. She slid the tinted electric window down so the officer could see her properly. Then she said, ‘I have just bought the car and I’m not used to the turbo – when it cuts in I just can’t hold it.’
The officer (trying not to laugh) gave her a verbal warning. Normally, one would expect to receive a fixed penalty for these kinds of driving offences. The fine can be up to £100 and three penalty points on your licence. However, with more severe cases of careless driving, nine points can be awarded or even disqualification.
Dangerous Drivers – DD40 Drivers
Dangerous drivers can be penalised under more serious driving offences. These are when the driver’s driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. Furthermore, it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver than driving in that way would be dangerous.
Dangerous driving offences are therefore determined by the nature of the driver’s driving. They are entirely objective, except for the sense of the fictional ‘careful and competent driver,’ who used to be known as ‘the man on the Clapham omnibus’ – but is now perhaps the driver on the North Circular.
The test determining whether dangerous driving has occurred falls into two parts. First, the driving falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. Second, the dangerousness of the driving would be obvious to a competent and careful driver.
Examples of dangerous driving would be:
- Racing or competitive driving
- Disregarding warnings from passengers
- Carrying out other tasks whilst driving, such as map reading or applying makeup
- Aggressive driving
- Driving a poorly maintained vehicle
I remember a fire engineer who travelled across the country to various sites. He was a nice individual who was obviously competent at his job and well thought of by his employers. However, behind the wheel of his car was not the best place for him. He had clocked up many road traffic offences in a relatively short period of time, amongst numerous fixed penalty notices. He also had a dangerous driving conviction which involved speed, a restricted carriageway, a dead horse, an injured rider and a damaged vehicle. For some reason, this individual had a severe problem anticipating what would be obviously dangerous driving to the vast majority.
The Difference Between Dangerous Driving and Careless Driving
The difference between dangerous driving and careless driving is down to the quality of your driving. If the standard of your driving falls below that of the competent and careful driver, it is classed as careless driving. If the standard falls far below that of the competent and careful driver and it is obvious to him driving in that way would be dangerous, then it is categorised as dangerous driving.
Speeding – SP10-60 Drivers
Having spent time in Germany, home of the Porsche, Mercedes, BMW and Audi, it’s not surprising there is no general speed limit on the autobahns. As a result, you could find yourself travelling at 80 mph. You may glance in the mirror and see a small dot rapidly enlarging as the projectile closes on you. My advice would be: don’t stay in the outside lane for longer than necessary.
However, for all that speed on the open roads, the Germans are extremely compliant when it comes to speed limits. In the countryside, their villages, towns and cities, they seem to have an innate ability to hit the break and reduce speed the moment they enter a restricted zone.
Speed is one of the main factors in fatal road accidents. The risk of a fatality is approximately four times higher for the pedestrian hit at 40 mph than the one hit at 30 mph. That’s worth remembering whenever you’re late for a meeting or keen to get home to see the match.
Lots of road traffic offences are strict liability offences. In other words, you either did it or you did not. Speeding offences fall into this category. If you’re speeding just over the limit, this can be dealt with by way of fixed penalties. Sometimes, the charge can be dropped in exchange for attending a speed awareness course. Speed awareness courses are very informative and have the advantage of you avoiding a penalty point endorsement. Often, they also have the added bonus of no increase in insurance premiums, which can be excessive the more points you accumulate.
Road Traffic Law
Road traffic law is a complex area of criminal law. Many people find themselves caught up in it at some time in their lives. However, many are too busy with more important issues to deal with. Often, the matter can be overlooked until the day arrives for the court hearing. If nothing has been done in preparation, the outcome may be much more severe than it needed to have been.
I bumped into an ex-soldier in court some years ago and asked what he was doing now. He explained he was a taxi driver and married with four children. Why was he at court? The man had no insurance due to an error in processing. With six points on his licence already, he was looking at a ban for six months. He had no solicitor because he was going to explain it to the Court himself.
Almost nine months later, it was resolved with six penalty points and a fine. However, the Court found ‘Special Reasons’ existed in his specific set of circumstances. They also decided to exercise their discretion not to endorse the points onto his licence. This meant the man was not disqualified from driving. He was able to continue his job as a taxi driver and support his family.
Often, when we have a burst pipe it’s best to get a plumber. With driving offences, it’s best to get a lawyer and it won’t cost as much!
Driving Offence Solicitors
If you’re seeking legal aid for motoring and driving offences, our experienced traffic defence lawyers are here to support you.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Major Family Law team so we can help. As well as initial free advice, we offer fixed-fee services to deliver great results. It it’s an emergency, contact Consultant Solicitor Charlie Waddell on 0780 271 7418 for his expert guidance.