Going on a Road Trip? Stay Safe by Understanding Driving Penalty Risks

It's nearly holiday season and the time to start planning your next road trip. Make sure you stay safe with our guide to driving offences and their penalties.

Apr 23, 2015

With summer and the holiday season nearly here, now is the time to start planning your next road trip, day out of long weekend away. But with thousands of other motorists in the UK doing the same, you must make sure you know how to drive safely and avoid penalties!

Under the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, there is a long list of driving offences you can be prosecuted for in England, Scotland and Wales, which can all result in fines, penalty points on your record and possibly a jail sentence. These can range from small things such as not wearing a seat-belt, to death caused by dangerous driving.

Depending on the level of seriousness and circumstance, the court will set a maximum penalty and a fine for the road traffic offence in question. This will show up as penalty points on your driving record and is written on the counterpart document of your driving license. Penalty points will stay on your record for 4 to 11 years, but if you accumulate over 12 points in 3 years, you will be disqualified from driving. This disqualification must last for at least six months, although it could be longer if you have been disqualified before.

To make sure you don’t have your driving record tarnished, read on to find out about the common driving offences and the maximum penalties against them.

Dangerous driving

A dangerous driving offence can carry a penalty of up to two years in prison and disqualification, as well as an unlimited fine.

In the most serious of cases – causing death by dangerous driving – you can be sentenced to 14 years maximum in prison, alongside a minimum of two years driving disqualification.

In the 12 months between 2012 and 2013, 226 people in England and Wales were convicted of causing death by dangerous driving; a worrying 36% increase on the previous year.

Careless Driving
From being distracted at the wheel and ‘cutting people up’, to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, careless and inconsiderate driving is a serious offence. It carries a maximum £5,000 fine, possible disqualification and between three and nine penalty points on your driving record.

Causing death whilst driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can result in up to 14 years in prison and two years’ disqualification. 

Between 2011 and 2012, 24 people were charged with causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs and another 177 caused death by careless driving.

Driving with a disqualification of without insurance

If you are found to be driving without insurance, expect a fine of up to £5,000 and six to eight penalty points. Driving while disqualified can get you up to six months in prison (12 months in Scotland) and a maximum £5,000 fine.

Failing to report an accident
This offence might not sound as serious at first, but failing to stop or report and accident can mean five to ten penalty points, a £5,000 fine and up to six months’ imprisonment. Not to mention, the court can choose to disqualify you from driving if they see fit. 


When you are in a rush to get somewhere or simply enjoy driving, it can be easy to drive over the speed limit without realising. However, this offence can land you with three to six penalty points and a fine of £1,000. This fine rises to £2,500 if you were caught speeding on a motorway. If the offence is serious enough, the court also has the power to disqualify you.

Failure to have proper control of vehicle/mobile phone use while driving
You can face a maximum fine of £1,000, up to two years’ imprisonment and an additional three penalty points for not controlling your vehicle properly, or using a mobile phone at the wheel. Studies have shown that people who use a mobile phone or even hands-free are slower at reacting to road hazards. In fact in 2014 it was reported that one in four car accidents are caused by mobile phone use.

Rules for new drivers

If you have passed your driving test within the past two years, you must be especially careful in you want to stay on the roads. You will have your driving licence revoked automatically if you accumulate six or more penalties in this time. To get your licence back, you must reapply for a provisional licence and must pass another driving test.

Why the UK penalty points system is important 
The aim of UK penalty points are to discourage motorists from breaking the law and causing harm to others on the road. The more points you accrue for things like dangerous driving and speeding, the more serious the offence. You can also receive penalty points on your record for non-motoring offences such as failing to repair or MOT your vehicle.

It is UK Parliament who decides on the fixed number or range of penalty points you can get, then the court orders the appropriate penalty to be placed on your licence. If you continue to commit further driving offences and don’t heed the warnings of penalties, you can face disqualification or a prison sentence.

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