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3 common driving offences and how to avoid them

James Watkins - Law on the Web

  1. 16 June 2015
  2. Cars and Motoring
  3. 0 comments
Bad driver

The easiest way to avoid getting in trouble for a driving offence is to not commit a driving offence. Of course, life isn’t always this simple – countless drivers have found themselves at the mercy of a magistrate (or, at least, being narked by a Notice of Intended Prosecution) after being stopped for an offence they didn’t mean to commit.

You can also make things easier for yourself by avoiding trouble in the first place. Here are a few of the more common ways that drivers get caught out by the law.


There are more prosecutions for speeding in the UK than for any other driving offence. The less serious offences will usually result in a Fixed Penalty Notice, or FPN. If you receive this, you will receive 3 points on your licence, and you will have to pay a £100 fine.

With an FPN, you do not need to go to court, unless you feel you have a legal defence and you want to contest the charge. If this is the case, you can reject the FPN, and your case will be heard in a magistrates’ court.

Bear in mind that if you can’t convince the court that you were innocent, you may be hit with a higher fine than that which was offered with the FPN. You should get legal advice before contesting a driving offence to see if you actually have a chance of success.

For more serious speeding offences, you may be prosecuted – a more serious speeding offence would usually be classed as exceeding the speed limit by 20mph or more. If convicted, you could receive a fine of up to £1,000 (£2,500 if you were on a motorway), as well as 3-6 points on your licence. If your offence was particularly serious, you may be banned from driving outright.

Speed cameras, the nemesis of the speeder, are bound by legal requirements to make them easily visible to drivers. For example, they must not be obscured by trees, signs or other objects, and they must be contained within housing painted yellow (or, in the case of mobile speed cameras, operators must wear fluorescent clothing).

By law, you should be able to see them from 100 metres away (or 60 metres if the speed limit is 40mph or less), so you should be able to tell if a camera is ahead, if you are careful.

Of course, it would probably be just as easy (and safer) to just keep an eye on your speed and stay within the limit.

Using a mobile phone while driving

Using a mobile phone while driving has been an offence since 2003, but drivers are still being caught doing it.

In fact, some drivers are taking more risks than ever – once upon a time, you only had to worry about drivers talking on the phone while driving. Some reckless drivers will now text from behind the wheel, despite research suggesting this impairs driving ability more than drink driving.

If you are caught using your phone while driving, you will likely receive an FPN, and the standard 3 penalty points and £100 fine. If you are prosecuted, that fine could go up to £1,000, or £2,500 if you were driving a goods vehicle or a bus.

This doesn’t take into account any other charges that may be brought against you – if being distracted caused you to drive carelessly or dangerously, you may be charged with those offences too.

Avoiding a charge for these offences is simple enough – just don’t use your phone while you are driving. Bear in mind, however, that using your phone in any way while you are in control of the car is considered an offence.

If you are sat in gridlocked traffic and you pick up your phone to read a message, change song or even just look at the time, an eagle-eyed police officer could spot you and charge you.

Drink driving

You don’t need me to tell you that drink driving is a bad idea. When you are at the controls of a vehicle, even the slightest impairment can result in tragedy. Drink driving offences come with serious possible penalties, including disqualification and jail time, even if you don’t harm anyone or cause any damage.

However, you might not realise that you could commit a drink driving offence without even realising you were doing it.

For example, it is possible to be charged with drink driving for being over the limit while “in charge” of a vehicle.

Despite what you may think, though, being in charge of the vehicle does not require the vehicle to be moving, or even turned on. If you are sat alone in the back seat of your car with the keys in your pocket, you would probably be considered to be in charge of the vehicle, even if you had no intention of driving it anywhere.

If you are found sat in the driver’s seat with the engine running, you would probably be considered to be “attempting to drive”, even if you only turned the engine on to listen to the radio.

These distinctions do not have a fixed statutory definition, so whether or not you could be charged will vary. When in doubt, just stay away from your car when you have had a few drinks (or better yet, give the keys to a sober friend).

You can find out more in our drink driving section.

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