Recent research from comparison site Confused.com revealed that millions of motorists across the UK are committing driving offences they did not know existed.
To help drivers understand the various motoring offences, the company has created a driving fines calculator where users can find out just how much these offences could cost them.
Robert Hodson, Legal Executive at DAS Law, looks at the law around some of the most common offences…
Under what circumstances could I be found guilty of ‘hogging’ the middle lane of the motorway?
Under Rule 264 of the Highway Code “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past”. Therefore, remaining in the middle lane for a prolonged period of time when not passing slow moving traffic in the left lane can be considered “middle lane hogging”.
Following new legislation introduced in 2013, “middle lane hogging” can be considered careless driving which could result in an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three penalty points added to your driving licence. If you contested any fine, a court could issue a fine of up to £5,000 and nine penalty points in the event that you are found guilty, although it is unlikely that such a high penalty would be applied in most cases.
Is it illegal to splash a pedestrian while driving?
Under section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 it is an offence to drive “without reasonable consideration for other persons”. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) set out in its ‘Policy for prosecuting cases of bad driving’ that driving through a puddle causing people to be splashed should be considered inconsiderate driving. The maximum penalty for such an offence is a fine up to £5,000.00 but it is unlikely that the maximum fine would be applied in most cases.
It is also important to consider the civil law duty of care owned by road users to pedestrians and that if driving through the puddle was considered negligent and physical injury was suffered they may be held liable for compensation.
Are you ever allowed to ‘undertake’ another vehicle?
Undertaking is allowed under Rule 268 of the Highway Code in circumstances where you are travelling on a multi-lane carriageway in congested conditions and the nearside lane is proceeding at a faster pace that the lanes to the right.
The more difficult position would be where there is a “middle-lane hogger” travelling slowly in the middle lane. In those circumstances in order to follow the Highway Code the driver would need to change two lanes of traffic to pass the vehicle travelling in the middle lane. In practice it is likely that the driver would need to take whatever they deem to be the safer course of action given the driving conditions to avoid any allegations of careless driving.
What constitutes ‘tailgating’?
Tailgating is defined as travelling behind another moving vehicle whilst leaving less than the recommended stopping distance, making it impossible to stop safely if the vehicle in front stops suddenly.
If the police consider than a driver has been tailgating another vehicle then this could result in a prosecution for careless or inconsiderate driving and an on the spot fine of £100 and three penalty points.
Additionally should you collide with the rear of the vehicle in front it is likely that you would be held responsible for any damage or injury caused.
Can I flash other drivers to warn them about speed cameras?
Section 89 of the Police Act 1997 states that it is an offence to “willfully obstruct a constable in the execution of his/her duty.” This offence can result in a maximum fine of £1,000.
Rule 110 of the Highway Code states that drivers should only flash their headlights to let other road users know they are there and should not be used as a means of communication. On this basis flashing another motorist to alert them of a speed camera could be seen to be a breach of Section 89 of the Police Act 1997.
Can I eat or drink at the wheel?
It is not specifically prohibited to eat or drink at the wheel, but should the police consider that doing so impacts your ability to safely control your vehicle, then you could be convicted of careless driving, and face an on the spot fine of £100 and three penalty points.
What are the laws around using your mobile phone?
It is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone whilst in control of a motor vehicle. You are however permitted to use a phone in the following circumstances:
- To call 999 or 112 in an emergency, where it is unsafe or impractical to stop;
- If you are safely parked;
- If you are a passenger in the vehicle.
If you are caught using a mobile phone whilst in control of a motor vehicle then you are likely to be given an on the spot fine of £60 and three penalty points. If the matter proceeds to court then you could face disqualification from driving and/or a fine of £1,000, which increases to £2,500 if you were in control of a bus or a goods vehicle.
Hands-free phones can be used whilst driving as long as the driver is not interacting with the hands free device itself (for example by touching the screen) and is not unduly distracted.
Disclaimer: This information is for general guidance regarding rights and responsibilities and is not formal legal advice as no lawyer-client relationship has been created.