The Most Common Driving Offences in the UK
Over the years cars have become safer, more fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly. What has not improved at the same rate, however, is the quality of driving. Millions of driving offences are dealt with by the police every year but even more happen every day, unnoticed or with minimal consequences. Many people may believe that they are a ‘good driver’ and that they do not break any laws or commit any offences – while others simply do not care or don’t see what they are doing as illegal. This article looks at some of the most common driving offences committed on a daily basis in the United Kingdom. Some of the offences are obvious while others may be more of a surprise.
Speeding is one of the most common driving offences in the UK. Around half of us admit to speeding on motorways while around a third of us drive above the speed limit in built up areas. If you are caught speeding you could receive a fine of up to £1,000 (up to £2,500 for speeding offences on a motorway), a disqualification from driving or points on your licence. The general speed limits for cars and motorcycles are 30mph in built up areas, 60mph on single carriageways and 70mph on dual carriageways (where there is a central reservation) and motorways. You should not drive faster than the speed limit. A speed limit is actually an ‘absolute maximum’ and it does not mean that you should drive at this speed at all times, in all conditions. In 2011, 3,267 people were killed or seriously injured in a crash where speed was a factor.
Texting & Driving
One law that most people will be aware of, but many will still flout, is using your mobile phone while driving. It is illegal to drive while using a hand-held phone or similar device, this means that it is illegal to make a call or text from a mobile phone while driving. You can only use your phone while driving if you need to call 999 in an emergency and it is impractical to stop. This law does not directly apply to hands-free phones or sat-navs but if the police believe you are distracted and not in control you can still be penalised. You are four times more likely to crash if you are using a mobile phone while driving and your reaction time is 50% slower.
One of the biggest annoyances while driving are drivers who drive too close behind you, also known as ‘tailgating’. As well as being hugely stressful to other drivers it can be very dangerous. If you tailgate you are not giving yourself enough braking time and restricting your view of the road and any hazards. Polls and surveys have found that men and young drivers are much more likely to tailgate. Many people may think that tailgating is not actually a driving offence, but in fact it can fall under ‘inconsiderate’ or 'careless' driving and the police can pull you over and give you an on-the-spot fine. Using the wrong lane on a roundabout and not signalling correctly are other examples of minor offences that can result in a fine if you are caught and pulled over.
Traffic Lights & Seatbelts
Safety is key when driving and many of the laws and regulations are intended to keep people safe while they are in a car. Another common driving offence is running traffic lights, i.e. driving through a red light. This can be highly dangerous as you could effectively be driving directly into the path of a car coming from a different direction. If you are caught committing a traffic light offence it could result in a fine up to £1,000, a discretionary disqualification or 3 points on your licence. Similarly being stopped by police for not wearing a seatbelt can involve an on-the-spot fine of £60 and a maximum fine of £500 is prosecuted. Seatbelts are there to keep you safe – if you are in a crash, whether it is your fault or not, you are twice as likely to die if you are not wearing one.
Other driving offences that many people commit on their day-to-day journeys may be surprising. A high proportion of these people do not even consider what they are doing to be illegal or problematic because so many other people do it all the time. Consuming food or drink, doing your makeup or even changing a CD while you are driving can all fall under ‘dangerous driving’ if you are avoidably distracted and not in control of the vehicle. Even playing loud music, in some circumstances, can be seen as a distraction to both you and other drivers.
Headlights, Horns & Number Plates
More surprising driving offences include flashing your headlights to warn other drivers of speed traps and using your horn. If you flash your headlights to warn another car of a speed trap then you could be prosecuted for impeding a police officer in the course of their duty. Warning other drivers in this way is, however, only a crime if the police can prove the car you were warning was speeding. It is also an offence to use your horn when your car is stationary or if you are driving in a built up area between 11.30pm and 7am. You should also not sound your horn in an aggressive manner. You can even be pulled over if your number plate is too dirty or obscured and if you refuse to rectify it then you can be fined or prosecuted.
Many people will be quick to claim that they are a good driver but on closer inspection they may actually be committing minor or more serious driving offences on a regular basis. If you have been caught by the police and you need legal advice it may be useful to use the services of solicitors that specialise in motoring law and driving offences. It is important to stay safe, alert and in control when driving as you may be putting others at risk as well as yourself.