Types of Traffic Offences in UK

Updated on Friday 26th February 2021

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Careless driving, drink driving and boarding a vehicle without the proper license are all examples of traffic offences in England and Wales. However, the police do not treat these equally and while some may be minor ones, such as drink driving may be in some cases, others such as accidents that involve bodily harm or death are serious ones and can result in imprisonment. 
 
Our driving offence solicitors in London highlight the main types of traffic offences that apply in the UK in this article. Understanding the existing types and the penalties that apply is helpful for drivers who wish to avoid losing their driver’s license. 
 

The main types of traffic offences presented by our driving solicitors

 
Driving offences in the UK are penalized with penalty points, fines, disqualifications or imprisonment according to severity. The most common ones are the following:
 
  1. Speeding: takes first place among common motoring offences in the UK and the penalties vary according to the percentage by which the speed limit was passed;
  2. Using the mobile phone: using a mobile phone while driving is only permitted if this is a hand-free device; 
  3. Careless driving: not committing to the due level of care and attention while driving a vehicle; this can include failure to show due attention to other road users;
  4. Drink driving: driving when the level of alcohol is above the one permitted by law in England and Wales; there are strict penalties and our drink drive solicitors can help you if you have been charged;
  5. Drug diving: similar to the previous offence, a driver is subject to penalties if under the influence of legal or illegal drugs while operating the vehicle;
  6. Others: license and insurance offences are possible as well as miscellaneous ones such as motor racing on the highway.
A distinction is made between dangerous driving and careless or inconsiderate driving. The first category is defined under Section 2 and Section 2A of the Road Traffic Act 1988 and involves some of the following: racing, driving too fast, driving aggressively, ignoring traffic lights, dangerous overtaking, driving when unfit through injury or when unable to see clearly, driving when knowing that the vehicle has dangerous faults, engaging in distracting activities while driving.
 
Careless or inconsiderate is not quite similar to dangerous driving patterns as it refers mainly to the actual manner in which the driver comports himself. These can include driving through a red light by mistake, turning into the way of another vehicle, driving too close to other vehicles, misusing lanes to gain an advantage over other vehicles, flashing lights to get other drivers to get out of the way, unnecessary slow driving and/or braking, using un-dipped headlights that dazzle other drivers as well as part of the behaviours that are also included in the dangerous driving category that refer to distracted driving (lighting a cigarette, using the radio, etc).
 
Our drink drive solicitor can give you complete details about the types of traffic offences in the UK that are related to the standard of driving expected of a competent driver.
 
Driving offences that are not related to operating the vehicle include document offences and driving using a mobile phone. The first category includes driving without a license that covers the class of vehicle that is being driven, driving well insurance, and driving without the annual MOT test for the car (this test is performed on the parts of the vehicle to make sure that they meet the legal standards for functioning; MOT stands for Ministry of Transport). Driving without these documents is an offence and so is failure to produce these documents when solicited (according to sections 164 and 165 of the Road Traffic Act). Driving while using a mobile phone or another handheld device does fall under the careless or dangerous driving category and it is punishable by points and a fine. Drivers who have just passed the test to obtain their license (within the last two years) may lose their license over this offence. Our team of driving offence solicitors can give you more details.

Failure to provide a specimen for a roadside breath test or a test at the police station when suspected of driving under the influence of drink or drugs is also an offence that is treated seriously. This offence can be treated as seriously as operating the vehicle under the influence of alcohol 

Another important type of traffic offence is the one related to failing to provide information that is needed by the police in order to identify the driver of a vehicle. This is particularly important when the driver has allegedly committed an offence. Any individual who fails to provide information that they could give (is in their power to give) that could identify the culpable driver can be found guilty of this offence. 

The laws that are relevant for the purpose of identifying driving offences are the Road Traffic Regulation Act, the Road Safety Act 2006 and the Road Traffic Act 1998. Our solicitors can give you complete information on the legislation in order and how offences that arise from driving incidents are prosecuted. 
 

Driving offences involving death


The most severe traffic offenses are those that involve the death of another individual. The main types of offenses involving fatalities are deaths caused by dangerous driving or deaths caused by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs. In order to be prosecuted in this manner, the driving must have expressly caused the death of another person. 

When analysing these types of cases, the prosecutors look at the driver’s level of culpability -  the greater the culpability, the great during the public interest for prosecuting the case.  

Special consideration is awarded by the prosecutors in those cases in which the victim is a family member or a close friend of the driver. Understandably, in this situation the emotional impact on the driver is a tremendous one and prosecutors are likely to treat the case in light of this great loss. However, in all cases, the job of the prosecutor is to ensure the safety of road transportation and if the individual who caused the accident is a continuing threat to the safety of other road users, then he will be prosecuted accordingly. 

The penalties for cases involving death are the following:
  • 1 to 14 years in prison when driving under the influence of drinks or drugs, along with an unlimited fine and a disqualification for at least two years; the same period applies for causing death for dangerous driving;
  • up to 5 years imprisonment for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving;
  • up to 2 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both for those cases causing death by unlicensed, uninsured, or disqualified drivers; a disqualification from driving for a minimum of one year also applies;
  • for murder or manslaughter, the maximum penalty is life imprisonment and a disqualification from driving.

Bail is possible for cases that involve serious driving offences, most notably those that result in fatal collisions. However, when prosecuting the case, special consideration shall be awarded to whether or not there is a risk that the defendant could commit further offences should he be released on bail. The prosecutors can then asl the court to impose certain conditions on bail. Our driving offence solicitors in London can give you more details on how bail applies in these serious cases.

Another, different category of offences is that which involves serious injury, as opposed to the death of another individual. In these cases, serious injury is treated under the grievous bodily harm rules according to the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 (a profoundly serious bodily harm). 
 
Below, our drink driving solicitors in London highlight the most common penalties when a driver is unfit for being in charge of a vehicle and also discuss the ones applicable to other types of motoring offences. 
 

Drink driving penalties in UK

 
Being in charge of a vehicle above the legal limit is subject to three different types of penalties as determined by the Government, according to severity:
 
  • a maximum fine of 2,500 £;
  • a driving ban;
  • 3 months’ imprisonment.
 
Understanding the manner in which these penalties apply is important and if you have been involved in a case, our team of drink driving solicitors in London can help you better understand these penalties. 
 
The alcohol limits for drivers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are the following, according to the type of test:
 
  • 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath;
  • 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood;
  • 107 milligrams per 100 millilitres of urine.
 
One should keep in mind that the limits for Scotland are different from those from the rest of the United Kingdom. Moreover, an individual who was banned by any UK court because of drink driving is forbidden from driving anywhere in the United Kingdom. Our drink driving solicitors can help prevent this from happening if you reach out to us immediately after the incident. 
 
It is important to note that the manner in which alcohol impairs one’s ability to drive depends on gender, metabolism, weight and age as well as the type of alcohol and other particulars. 
 
Types of Traffic Offences in UK


Penalty points for other driving offences

 
When discussing the types of traffic offences in UK it is useful to point out the penalties that may apply. Our motoring offence solicitors list the penalty points for some of the main types of offences below:
 
  • 3 points: in most cases, for miscellaneous offences such as leaving the vehicle in a dangerous position or driving with uncorrected defective eyesight; 
  • 3-9 points: driving without due care and attention or driving without reasonable care for other road users;
  • 3-11 points: reckless driving, driving or attempting to drive while the alcohol level is above the limit;
  • 10 points: for drivers who are in charge of a vehicle while the alcohol level is above the limit as well as while the driver is unfit for driving through drinking;
  • 4 points: for drivers who fail to provide the specimen for the breath test needed to assess the alcohol level.
 
These examples are limited and we suggest reaching out to our driving offence solicitors for more information about specific types of traffic offences.

We invite you to watch a video on the main types of traffic offences:

How driving incidents are charged in the UK

 
The type and the severity of the offence are important when the prosecutors issue a decision on a case involving traffic offences. Crown Prosecutors follow a code that guides them according to several principles. Our driving offence solicitors list some of the most important ones below.
 
Prosecutors are advised to keep in mind several issues when submitting their decisions for driving offences in the UK. Among these we list the following ones:
 
  • the actual level of culpability; the higher this level, the higher the public interest for prosecution;
  • prosecution is in the public interest of the driver had caused harm or distress to other traffic participants;
  • if the individual is not driving in accordance with the conditions set forth in the provisional license, then it is likely that it is in the public interest to prosecute.
 
Not all driving incidents are prosecuted, especially not minor ones such as collisions when the level of carelessness was a minimal one (especially in parking lots or in traffic queues). Naturally, other issues will be taken into consideration especially if the driver was unfit through drugs or drink at the time of the incident, however minor.
 
The Code for Crown Prosecutors stipulates special provisions for driving incidents resulting in death when the victim is a family member or close friend of the driver. These are also known as the ”close friends and family cases” and in this particular situation, the prosecutor is faced with having to consider the consequences for the driver in terms of pain and suffering. It is likely that the offender is likely to suffer greatly from the event, this is why in some cases prosecutors are advised to use balance when deciding the level of the punishment for the offence. This is because the driver will be subjected in most cases to life-long psychological consequences resulted from being responsible for the loss of a family member or a friend. The manner is a delicate one as the prosecutor is also asked to take into consideration the level of safety for other road users. When or if there is sufficient evidence to show that the individual who is responsible for the death of a loved one will present continuous danger to other road users, then the course of action is to prosecute considering the best public interest (especially if the individual has also had other similar previous convictions or has a medical condition).
 
The diver’s level of culpability is also an important element in these cases, for example when this level is low and the driver is not a danger to other traffic participants, then the public interest of prosecution can be a low one. The same can apply when the level of culpability is higher, however, there was clear evidence that the driver is not a danger to others (for example, when the fatality took place because the driver was distracted from having operated the radio).
 
Working with an experienced solicitor, such as our driving offence solicitors in London, is helpful for knowing what one can expect according to the type of the traffic offence and other adjacent issues. The circumstances in which a driving incident takes place are important for the manner in which the case is judged and our team can help you with an initial evaluation.
 
Hundreds of drivers are prosecuted for various traffic offences in the United Kingdom each year. The penalties differ from points to having to follow rehabilitation or awareness courses as well as disqualification or imprisonment in the most severe of cases.
 
If you were involved in a traffic offence in England or Wales, you can reach out to our driving offence solicitors for personalized assistance. 
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