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Driving offences – knowing the difference

We all know what we think of as selfish and inconsiderate driving.

Hogging the middle lane on the motorway, driving too close to the car in front and undertaking on the inside lane, to name but a few examples.

If we're honest, many of us will even admit to having done these things ourselves occasionally. But what many people don't know, 37 per cent of UK drivers according to a survey, is that these misdemeanours can be punishable by a fine as well as penalty points on your licence.

Since August 2013, when police were first given the power to issue on-the-spot, fixed penalty notices for careless and inconsiderate driving offences, more than 17,000 motorists in England and Wales have been convicted.

Examples include:

  • Sitting in the middle lane on motorways;
  • Driving too close to the car in front;
  • Pushing into queueing traffic;
  • Performing wheel spins;
  • Failing to give way at junctions;
  • Driving the wrong way round a supermarket mini-roundabout,
  • Illegally undertaking;
  • Driving too fast past pedestrians and children.

How is it different from dangerous driving?

Most people are clear on what dangerous driving is. Showing off, driving aggressively or with excessive speed, overtaking dangerously, showing a deliberate disregard for the safety of others or causing a serious accident, all fall into this category.

It is defined in law as being driving that falls far below the standard of a competent and careful driver and driving that would obviously seem dangerous to a competent and careful driver.

Magistrates' Courts can impose a maximum six month prison sentence or a £5,000 fine or both whilst Crown Courts can impose a maximum two year prison sentence or an unlimited fine or both. With either there is a mandatory disqualification of at least 12 months, but usually much longer, and an extended driving test to regain your licence.

So, what exactly are careless and inconsiderate driving?

According to the law, a person can be deemed to be driving carelessly or inconsiderately when the way they drive falls below the minimum acceptable standard expected of a competent and careful driver.

You could be convicted of careless driving, also known as driving without due care and attention, for hitting a parked car, turning into the path of another vehicle or overtaking on the inside.

Inconsiderate driving is when your actions behind the wheel could be looked on as rude and obnoxious to other road users including flashing lights to force other drivers to give way and unnecessarily slow driving or braking.

Whilst many of these examples may seem to fall at the lower end of the scale for motoring transgressions, if considered to be a more serious offence, drivers can end up going to court.

For help and advice on dangerous, inconsiderate or careless driving traffic offences, contact Wards Solicitors' criminal defence solicitor-advocate, Michael Gupwell, or pop into one of our 11 local offices.

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