- Fixed Penalties for Motoring Offences
- Non-Endorsable / Endorsable
- Multi – Offence Conviction
- Accumulation of Points
- Speed Limits
- Excess Alcohol Offences
- Wearing of Seat-Belts
- Towing and Caravans
- Lighting of Vehicles’ Rear Fog Lamps
- Penalty Points System
- Motorway Driving
- Stopping Distance
- Winter Motoring
- Driving on Ice or Snow
- Driving in Fog
There are two main groups of motoring offences for which Fixed Penalty Notices may be issued.
For minor offences involving no licence endorsements, the fixed penalty will be £20.00 outside London and £40.00 for a Red Route offence. These offences range from improper parking to the non-wearing of a seat-belt.
In Scotland the scheme is much wider.
For some more serious offences involving the endorsement of a licence with penalty points, the fixed penalty will be £60.00. If payment is made within 28 days that will be the end of the matter. More serious offences are outside the scope of fixed penalty schemes so that the penalty points may only be imposed by a court.
In the case of non-endorsable offences involving stationary vehicles leg parking), Fixed Penalty Notices may be fixed to a vehicle by a traffic warden or a police officer.
In the case of other minor offences related to driving a vehicle, but not involving licence endorsements leg not wearing a safety helmet or driving the wrong way in a one-way street), a fixed penalty notice may be given to the driver but only by a uniformed police officer.
Parking in London – The local councils have taken over the job of parking control and enforcement from the police on most roads except Priority (Red) Routes, employing parking attendants to issue a new type of ticket, the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).
Parking fines cost either £30.00, £40.00 or £60.00 depending on the district and payment within 14 days will result in a 50% reduction.
To challenge a Penalty Charge Notice or have mitigating circumstances considered, write to the council whose address is on the back of the ticket. If they refuse to cancel the ticket you can take up an appeal with an independent tribunal – the Parking Appeals Service.
Magistrates’ Courts have no role in this system in which vehicle owners are liable for all tickets, irrespective of who was driving the vehicle at the time.
In the case of endorsable offences coming within the scheme, only a uniformed police officer is able to give a Fixed Penalty Notice. Traffic wardens may, however, issue notices for parking in pedestrian crossing areas, subject to local policy.
The police officer will want to examine the driver’s licence in order to check any penalty points, because a fixed penalty notice cannot be given for an offence which would take the total points to 12 or more, as this generally requires disqualification to be ordered by a court.
A Police Officer Decides
Whether the offence involves points or not, only a poLice officer can decide when to give a Fixed Penalty Notice. A driver cannot demand such an opportunity to avoid prosecution in the court.
In the case of endorsable offences, the driver will be asked to surrender their licence to the police officer on receiving their Fixed Penalty Notice. If a driver has not got their licence with them, they will be issued with a ‘Provisional Fixed Penalty Notice’ requiring them to take it to a police station of their choice (other than one in Scotland) within 7 days and, provided endorsement does not bring the number of penalty points to 12 or more, the provisional fixed penalty will be converted to a substantive one.
The licence will be returned after the penalty points have been endorsed and the penalty has either been paid or registered as a fine.
Should the driver fail either to pay the fixed penalty within 28 days or ask for a court hearing the Fixed Penalty Officer would redirect their demands to the registered owner of the vehicle.
If a fixed penalty is not paid, or a court hearing not requested within 28 days by the registered owner of the vehicle, the penalty will be increased by 50% and registered as a fine after which the court will be able to use all its powers to enforce payment.
The motorist is under no obligation to pay a fixed penalty if they consider themselves innocent of any offence charged and the right to elect trial in court is clearly stated in the notice. They have 28 days to decide what to do – pay the penalty or take the matter to the court.
A Cheaper Option
Generally speaking, payment of the fixed penalty is likely to be a cheaper option than contesting the matter in court, where there is a risk of costs being awarded against the motorist.
Whilst attendance at court is usually unnecessary if pleading guilty to a relatively minor offence, the motorist still suffers inconvenience and anxiety prior to the court hearing – they have to consider preparing a statement of mitigating circumstances, there is the inevitable wait before being informed of the fine imposed and a need to arrange prompt payment after notification.
This can be avoided if the motorist accepts the fixed penalty.
RAC Members should seek free advice in such cases from the RAC Legal Department, P0 Box 700, Bristol BS99 1RB, telephone 0990 533 533.
On conviction of more than one offence on the same occasion, penalty points will only be imposed in respect of the offence receiving the highest number of points.
Disqualification for at least 6 months will follow the accumulation of 12 penalty points within a period of 3 years – for instance, four speeding offences committed, although the magistrates have the discretion to reduce this. Once this has happened the points cease to count and after expiry of the disqualification the driver starts again with a clean slate. If a driver with 12 points or more has already had a disqualification within the 3 years preceding the latest offence they will be disqualified for at least 12 months.
If they have had two or more they will be disqualified for at least 2 years. The courts have power to order shorter disqualification or no disqualification if exceptional hardship is involved but their powers to do so are restricted. Offenders will not be able to plead the same mitigating circumstances more than once in 3 years.
Penalty points for each offence which do not result in disqualification – in other words, those which do not add up to 12 within 3 years – will cease to count 3 years after the date of the offence. Generally speaking, one may apply to DVLA Swansea (0870 240 0009) for removal of the endorsement 4 years after the date of the offence.
The speed limit on a motorway or dual carriageway road is 70 mph and that on other roads is 60 mph. Only roads subject to a lower limit have to be marked by signs.
A general speed limit of 30 mph applies on roads having a system of street lighting provided by means of lamps placed 200 yards or less apart unless there are de-restriction signs. On other roads where the speed limit is in excess of 30 mph, a motorist shall not be convicted for exceeding the speed limit unless repeater signs are erected.
A goods vehicle with maximum laden weight not exceeding 7.5 tonnes but which is not an articulated vehicle, or drawing a trailer nor a car-derived van, is limited to 60 mph on dual carriageways. These vehicles are not permitted to use the outside right hand lane (for overtaking).
Evidence in Speeding Cases
The opinion of two people (not necessarily police officers) is enough to secure a conviction.
Alternatively, the court will usually accept the evidence of one police officer who followed the accused and was watching a calibrated speedometer, or who noted the speed on equipment. Speeding is an absolute offence and it is no defence to argue that the speeding did not cause any danger.
If danger was caused then it is likely that the more serious charges of careless or dangerous driving may also be brought. It is extremely difficult to defend a speeding charge successfully.
Usually it is alleged that the motorist was exceeding the limit by at least 10 mph so that it is difficult to argue that this was a mistake or that the police officer’s speedometer was inaccurate.
It is particularly difficult to defend the charge if the motorist was caught in a radar trap, since all such speed measuring devices are Home Office approved and few magistrates are prepared to accept the argument of mistaken identity.
It is an offence to drive, attempt to drive or be in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place having consumed alcohol in excess of 35 micro-grams in 100 millilitres of breath, 80 milligrams in 100 millilitres of blood or 107 milligrams in 100 millilitres of urine.
A police officer in uniform may require a person driving, attempting to drive or in charge of a vehicle whom they reasonably suspect of having alcohol in their body or of having driven, etc. and still has alcohol in their body or of having committed a moving traffic offence, to submit to a breath test.
Similarly where an accident occurs, a police officer, who need not be in uniform, may require a breath test to be undertaken. A police officer may arrest a person without a warrant where the test is positive or is refused, except a patient in hospital, and take them to a police station.
For this purpose or to obtain a specimen of breath where an accident involving injury has occurred, a police officer may enter, if necessary forcibly, any place where that person is or is reasonably suspected to be. A suspect may be required to provide two specimens of breath for analysis by an approved device – but only at a police station.
Alternatively the provision of a specimen of blood or urine may be required for laboratory test where the constable believes that for medical reasons a breath specimen cannot or should not be provided or a breath device is not available. The police officer will decide whether the specimen should be of blood or urine except where a doctor decides that urine only is appropriate.
Two samples of urine are required within one hour. Only the lower reading of the two specimens of breath will be regarded but if it contains 50 micro-grams or less of alcohol in 100 millilitres of breath then the motorist may, and should, claim its replacement by a specimen of blood or urine the choice of which, as before, is made by the police officer.
A police officer must warn a person that failure to provide a specimen may render them liable to prosecution. A person who, without reasonable excuse, fails or refuses to provide a specimen is guilty of an offence.
On summary conviction for an excess alcohol offence, imprisonment not exceeding 6 months or a fine not exceeding £5000, or both, may be ordered. This will go together with an obligatory disqualification for not less than 12 months.
For special reasons that relate to the offence (not the offender), the court may order a shorter period of disqualification or even none at all.
The following information provides guidelines as to the possible penalties:
|Breath||Blood||Urine||Disqualify||Guideline||Low Income||Average Income||High Income|
|86-100||196-229||261-308||24 mths||Consider Community Penalty|
|101-115||230-264||309-354||30 mths||Consider Community Penalty|
|116- 130||265-300||355-400||30 mths||Consider Custody|
|131+||301+||401+||30 mths||Consider Custody|
Where a vehicle is of a category for which seat-belts are a compulsory fitment, the driver must wear a seat-belt.
Adult or child passengers in the front of such a vehicle must also wear a seat-belt.
Children under the age of one year travelling in the front of a car must be in an approved baby carrier designed for the baby’s weight.
Both adult and child passengers travelling in the rear of cars must be restrained where a seat-belt is fitted and available.
For children between one and four years old, an appropriate child seat, or a booster cushion with an adult seat-belt, must be used.
Children under one year must be in an approved infant carrier designed for the baby’s size and weight.
Approved child restraints must carry the BS ‘Kitemark’ or international ‘E’ mark.
Only the person contravening the requirement to wear a seat-belt commits an offence. However, if the passenger is a child under 14, the offence is committed by the driver.
When a trailer is towed by a tow rope or chain the nearest points between the two vehicles must not exceed 4.5 metres.
Where the gap between the vehicles exceeds 1.5 metres, the tow rope must be rendered clearly visible to persons on either side.
Make sure your trailer is regularly serviced and maintained.
It is not wise to leave your caravan, horse box or trailer unused for the majority of the year before taking it out on the road without checking it for serviceability and with respect to brakes and tyres in particular.
If your trailer has brakes, a common problem that may occur is that brake cables and linkages could seize. This may cause the brakes to bind, over-heating the wheel bearings. This may result in the wheel, complete with the hub assembly, parting company with the trailer.
Check the condition of the tyres and tyre pressures regularly.
If you are towing a large high sided trailer or caravan you may require extended door mirrors. These will help visibility along both sides of your vehicle and trailer.
You will need to be aware that the vehicle and trailer will take longer to stop, accelerate and turn than a vehicle on its own.
When towing a trailer you are restricted to a maximum speed of 50mph on single carriageway roads, and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways, provided no lower limit is in force.
You are not allowed to use the outside lane on motorways when towing.
If you tow a small trailer without brakes, the weight of the trailer is limited to 50% of the kerb weight of the car or 750kg, whichever is less. When towing larger trailers that have brakes fitted, the weight of the vehicle should not (as a rule of thumb) exceed 85% of the kerb weight.
Most vehicle manufacturers state the maximum towing limit in their handbooks, but you must bear in mind the total weight including passengers and luggage, also any items put in the caravan or trailer. The weight can soon add up.
Cars first used on or after 1 April 1980 must be equipped with either a single rear fog or two rear fog lamps.
They must be positioned at least 100 mm away from the brake lights and they must be fitted so that they do not illuminate when the car’s brakes are applied.
It is an offence to use rear fog lamps other than during conditions of poor visibility when the vehicle is in motion or during an enforced stoppage.
A headlamp, front fog lamp or rear fog lamp may not be used so as to cause undue dazzle or discomfort to other persons using the road nor may such a lamp be lit when the vehicle is parked.
Condition of Lamps
Every obligatory lamp and reflector fitted to a vehicle used on a road shall be clean and in good working order.
Offences attracting penalty points, together with details of the points which will be imposed, are listed in the chart below.
No disqualification may be ordered unless there is an order for endorsement.
Some offences carry a compulsory order for disqualification and this must be imposed by the court unless there are special reasons for not doing so.
Disqualification remains obligatory for certain offences e.g. dangerous driving, or drinking and driving as opposed to being drunk in charge.
So, in general terms, penalty points will only be endorsed in cases where licence endorsement is obligatory and disqualification is discretionary, but not imposed.
If a previous drink driving offence took place during the 10 years preceding the current offence, the court must disqualify for at least 3 years.
Please bear in mind that the court has the power to order a retest following conviction for any endorsable offence if considered appropriate.
|No. of Points||Offence|
Motorways have a far better accident record than any other parts of our national road system. However, every year we see crashes on the motorway that could have been prevented.
By sticking to a few simple motorway rules all drivers can ensure that they don’t contribute to behaviour which could be termed ‘motorway madness’.
- Make sure that your car is well maintained, has sufficient fuel and oil, has correct tyre pressures and tyres are in good condition (including spare). Observe the speed limit. Remember that concentration and frequent use of mirrors are doubly important on motorways because of higher traffic volumes.
- Take extra care when approaching intersections where traffic is joining the motorway.
- Obey motorway signals. These warn of dangers ahead, for example an accident, broken down vehicle, poor weather conditions, flooding, slippery road surface etc.
- Be prepared to anticipate the unexpected actions of other drivers.
- Keep your distance. On a dry road and in good weather conditions leave at least a two-second gap between your vehicle and the one in front.
- On wet, slippery roads, or in poor visibility leave at least a four second gap. Switch on dipped headlights when visibility is reduced.
- Use your mirrors and observe lane discipline. Always use the Left hand lane where possible. Remember lanes two and three are not the ‘middle lane’ or ‘fast lane’, these are overtaking lanes.
- and should be used as such. Always indicate when changing lanes. Overtake or pass only on the right unless traffic is moving in queues and the queue on your right is moving more slowly than you are. Never move into a lane on your left to overtake and never use the hard shoulder to overtake. Take special care when joining a motorway. You must give way to motorway traffic. Beware the ‘bLindspot’ factor.
- Take reguLar breaks at service areas, never on the hard shouLder. If you feel sLeepy, get off the motorway at the first opportunity.
- Take particular care at roadworks and when approaching them, reduce your speed and obey any warning signs which have been put up.
The average reaction time from seeing an emergency situation to actually placing your foot on the brake pedal is 0.7 seconds.
At 30 mph, or 44 feet per second, you will have travelled 30 feet before you even take action, and a further 45 feet before the brakes bring the car to a halt.
- Keep at least 75 feet (about six car lengths) between you and the vehicle in front, even at low speed and in good conditions.
- Shortest stopping distance:
|20mph / 32Kph||—– 12m / 40ft|
|30mph / 48Kph||———- 23m / 75ft|
|40mph / 64Kph||—————— 35m / 120ft|
|50mph / 80Kph||——————————– 53m / 175ft|
|60mph / 96Kph||——————————————– 73m / 240ft|
|70mph / 112Kph||——————————————————— 96m / 315ft|
Not preparing a car for winter could increase the risk of an inconvenient upset such as a breakdown.
- In poor weather and visibility conditions only make trips that are absolutely necessary.
- Ensure you have enough fuel for your journey. Drivers use more fuel when driving in heavy traffic and stop/start conditions.
- Do not drive with a small hole cut through the ice on your windscreen. The Highway Code states that it is illegal to drive with poor visibility. Ensure all windows and mirrors are completely demisted and totally cleared of ice.
- Where possible use major routes which may have been gritted/salted, because side roads, which tend not to be treated, may be blocked. In a breakdown situation it will be much harder to call for help and for assistance to get to you. If you take any medication ensure you have extra supplies if necessary. Do take a mobile phone if you have one. Remember to ensure the battery is fully charged.
- Use you headlights in heavy rain or snow. Do use your fog lights if conditions are poor but remember to turn them off, especially rear fog lights.
- In severe conditions consider telLing someone of your departure time, route, destination and estimated time of arrival. Take some high-energy food, such as chocolate, boiled sweets etc.
- Carrying a thermos flask filled with hot soup is recommended on longer
- journeys. If travelling with smaLl babies, ensure they have some of their own food.
- Wrap up warm and take a bLanket, waterproof clothing and sensible footwear.
- Remember to alLow more time to brake and accelerate. Leave more room between you and the driver in front, and finally, try to be patient.
- Heavy duty jump leads. Take care to foLI.ow any instructions issued with the leads.
- Note: On vehicles using electronic moduLes to control the ignition, incorrect usage of the jump leads could result in the modules being damaged.
- A good tow rope. Ensure any towing hooks that some vehicles now use are in the car and that you also know how to remove the plastic cover (often located in the bumper) where the hook screws in. (See your owners handbook for details). A high quality torch – preferably with long Life/spare batteries.
- A good first aid kit.
- An emergency pack, especially including: – A warning triangle. – A fire extinguisher.
- Snow chains. For use when travelling in an area that experiences prolonged heavy snowfall. Chains only to be used in deep snow.
- A spare fuel can.
- A spade.
- A spare bulb and fuse kit.
- Money or phonecard for emergencies.
The best advice is to avoid travelling in hazardous weather conditions whenever possible. But if you have to drive, then observe the following guidelines:
- If your car has been outside during a snowfall or heavy frost, remove all traces of snow and ice from windows using a windscreen scraper or de-icer, but not using warm water taken from a kettle. Check that mirrors, lights and number plates are clear before driving off. Also, ensure your shoes are dry so they don’t slip on the pedals.
- When setting off on snow or ice, pull away slowly to avoid wheel-spin and maintain a regular moderate speed in as high a gear as possible.
- If the wheels are stuck in snow, don’t race the engine to free them. They will only dig in deeper. Try rocking the car backwards and forwards or use a car rug or piece of sacking to aid traction, Black ice is a major hazard to drivers because you can’t see it. Check for signs like frozen puddles and frost on trees, and take extra care.
- Braking distances on ice can be up to ten times more than in normal conditions, especially downhill, so control your speed carefully, change to a higher gear and use the brake pedal gently and early. If your car starts to skid while braking, release the brake pedal immediately. If the back wheels start to slide, steer into the direction of the skid and ease off the brake or accelerator. If the front wheels or all four wheels are sliding, release the brakes and don’t attempt to steer until the wheels have regained some of their grip.
Safe driving is basically a matter of adjusting to conditions, and this applies especially when driving in fog.
- Keep a safe distance behind the vehicle in front. Try to give more distance than you would observe in clear weather. Switch on dipped headlights when visibility is reduced.
- Be aware of your speed. You may be going much faster than you think. Do not speed up to get away from a vehicle which is too close behind you.
- Use front or rear fog lights only in poor visibility conditions. Remember to turn off fog lights when visibility improves. In extreme foggy conditions, open your window slightly and turn