Charlotte de Rosnay
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Another success for Charlotte de Rosnay

Charlotte de Rosnay recently had another success at Oxford Magistrates Court with an exceptional hardship hearing.

Her client had totted up to 12 points on his licence and was facing possible disqualification. However, after gathering documentation and presenting the evidence to the Court, the Magistrates found that her client did indeed have a case for exceptional hardship. He was the main carer for an elderly parent who needed to be taken to regular doctors and hospital appointments, as well as be on standby in case of an emergency.  The Court found he did not have anyone else who could assist and was therefore allowed to continue driving.

The client still has 12 points on his licence but was not disqualified as a result.  As you can imagine, he was very happy with the outcome.

Whilst there is no single definition of exceptional hardship some of the factors that might be considered are listed below:

  • Dependency of other family members on your licence
  • How do your children get to school?
  • Are you the main earner in your household and could you survive on just your spouse’s income?
  • Do you drive for work and do you have employees who depend on you
  • General health and need to attend health related appointments
  • Is there public transport available where you live?
  • General finances, loans, mortgages, possibility of finding alternative employment if you lose your job etc.

You can call Charlotte de Rosnay, or one of our other lawyers here at John Onions Solicitors for a free consultation on 01926 886007. With combined years of experience in this field we will be able to advise you about the likelihood of saving your licence, and what steps to take next if you find you’ve totted up to 12 points or more.

 

 

MOT test

The MOT Test is Changing

This year the MOT test is changing. The Driving and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) is  making the changes that will come into force on the 20th May 2018 and an updated inspection manual will be introduced for all MOT testers across the UK.

The test is changing to bring it into line with an EU Directive called the EU Roadworthiness Package.

But what changes will this new MOT test include?

 

New MOT fault categories

There will be three new fault categories:

  • Minor
  • Major
  • Dangerous.

The DVSA say these have put in place to help drivers do the right thing, as in not simply drive away from the garage and not take action on the repairs that need to be made.

A minor fault would be flagged up on the MOT certificate with other advisory notes about what needs to be done. Major and dangerous defects will mean an automatic MOT fail. Major faults will require the vehicle to be fixed and retested.   Whereas a dangerous defect will mean the car will be deemed too dangerous to drive, making it a criminal offence to drive on the road.

 

Other MOT test checks

Brake discs will be tested for significant wear and tear and will also be considered a major or even dangerous fault if found to be obviously worn.

There will be a check on the reverse lights, and will result in a fail if they aren’t working.

Steering blocks will be tested.

Emission testing will become tougher. Particularly for diesel fuel cars, in a drive by the government to reduce emissions.  If ‘visible smoke of any colour’ is emitted from the car’s exhaust, it will be failed as a major fault.

It will be an automatic fail if any diesel has a faulty diesel particulate filter, or has one removed. A diesel particulate filter (DPF) works to remove the soot from the exhaust gas of a diesel engine –  the dirty part of the emissions that causes damage to health.

DPFs in diesel cars become clogged easily and therefore require a lot of potentially expensive upkeep. Some drivers choose to remove them completely. This is already a criminal offence punishable with a financial penalty and until the new rules come into force it was always just a visual inspection to check if the DPF in fitted.

 

What can you do to ensure your vehicle passes?

Before taking your car for its MOT it is always worth doing some basic checks:

Tyre tread is something that often leads to a fail so it is worth checking these before the test.

Check your windscreen for cracks or chips, check the wipers are still working well.

Tyre tread is something that often leads to a fail so it is worth checking these before the test.

Check your horn works. This is a very common fail item.

Check for any blown lightbulbs and replace them if necessary.

Ensure your fuel is at a decent level before taking it for the test. An MOT can’t be carried out on an empty or nearly empty fuel tank.

Make sure the seatbelts work smoothly and correctly.

Look around the vehicle to see if there are any leaks.

For diesel car owners (or if you’re considering buying a diesel) check the DPF (diesel particulate filter) if you have one. If your dash light is flashing orange then it may be becoming blocked, which could cost a lot of money.

 

Driving without an MOT is an offence and could land you in hot water with fines of up to £1,000.

If you have any questions about this or any other driving matters, you can contact us on 01926 886007 or by filling out our contact form here

new driving test rules

Out with the old, in with the new – driving test brought up to date

As we enter 2018, we begin a new era for the driving test, for all those hoping to qualify for a driving licence in England, Scotland and Wales. Changes have been brought into effect to ensure that the criteria that new drivers are tested against is reflective of the modern driving experience. Initially these changes only apply to those applying for a car licence, although it is expected that these will be rolled out more widely in due course.

You’ll now have to follow a sat nav for part of the test

One of the most interesting changes is that part of the test will now require you to accurately follow instructions from a sat nav. This will be a route that has been pre-set by your examiner, so although you won’t know where it will take you, you’ll not have to worry about plugging the destination into the sat nav itself. But you will have to demonstrate that you can concentrate on the road, your observations and on the instructions simultaneously.

50/50 instructed/solo navigation

At the moment, the test comprises approximately 10 minutes where drivers are left to drive independently, i.e. not following detailed instructions from the examiner. This is now changing to allow more time for this. The independent driving time will double to roughly 20 minutes, which equates to around half of the allocated testing time. Part of this independent driving time will allow for the sat nav section outlined above.

Ensure that you are capable of executing basic safety tasks while driving

You should expect your examiner to ask you to perform two vehicle safety exercises while you’re driving. One of these will be asked before you set off, the other will be something you have to demonstrate while driving. It is important to be able to carry out rudimentary safety procedures when you’re driving a vehicle, such as turning the hazard warning lights on or squirting the windscreen with cleaning fluid.

No more ‘reverse around the corner’ manoeuvre

Much to the relief of some, the reverse around the corner manoeuvre and the three-point turn are no longer to be tested as part of the formal examination. You’ll be taught how to do these by your instructor, but they will no longer form part of the test. They are to be replaced by manoeuvres such as parallel parking at the roadside or parking in a car park bay – either by driving in and reversing out, or reversing in and driving out.

If I am caught using my mobile phone at the wheel, will this result in my licence being revoked?

Using your mobile phone at the wheel is a big no go in the eyes of the law, and motorists need to be made aware that the penalties for mobile phone misuse are serious. Talking on your phone via its handsfree function or using the phone safely as a means of navigation, are the only things that are considered acceptable.

So, what happens to my licence if I break the rules?

If the police catch you using your mobile phone while driving, then they will give you a £200 fine and six penalty points on your licence.

For established drivers, those who held their licence for two years or more, this means that you will rack up half of the points you are allowed before your licence is taken away. So it is serious. Motorists can acquire up to 12 penalty points over the course of three years, for offences such as speeding, mobile phone infractions and so on. These are often coupled with a fine so it can be a costly exercise too.

If you’re a new driver, then you risk losing your licence all together for using your phone, even if it is your first offence. For those who have held their licence for under two years, receiving six penalty points means your licence can be revoked and you’re back to square one. Public transport and lifts from friends will become your reality again until you are eligible to have your licence back.

Depending on the severity of the offence, it could be much worse

In extreme cases, where police feel that you use of a mobile phone is completely unacceptable, you could even risk being taken to court. If this happens, the maximum fine is significantly higher – you could be fined up to £2,000.

It’s very easy to avoid the risk of fines, penalty points and disqualification – don’t think about using your mobile phone while driving. Keep it out of sight and out of mind until you have reached your destination.

mobile phone rules

Mobile phone usage – what is really allowed?  

 

Following on from our previous blog post on the new mobile phone usage fines, we take a look at the topic of using a mobile phone behind the wheel which can be a bit of a confusing area. Whereas most people now know that using a handheld mobile phone while driving a car is illegal, where do the boundaries lie? There are many reasons why someone might be tempted to use a mobile phone while driving:

  • To make or receive a call
  • To send or read a text message
  • To use the handsfree call function
  • For the phone’s navigation equipment
  • To play music

So, which of these is allowed and which can land a motorist in hot water?

According to the RAC, “you are allowed to use a phone if it is fully hands-free – you’re not allowed to pick it up and operate it manually, even momentarily.”

This means that if you are anticipating making or receiving a call during a car journey then you need to have taken the time to set this up before you set off. The same is true if you’re hoping to play music via a cable or Bluetooth while you’re driving. Set it up in advance so that it requires no manual intervention while you’re behind the wheel.

If you’re using your phone to navigate, ensure that the journey is pre-programmed and that the phone is mounted safely in a windscreen or dashboard mount. Glancing down at a phone on your lap is not safe, nor will it keep you out of trouble if you’re spotted by the police.

Next time you stop at traffic lights with another car alongside you, glance over to look at the other drivers. It is very easy to spot someone who is engaging with their mobile phone – intently looking down into their lap or (in the dark) their face will be illuminated with the light from the phone. It is that easy to spot someone who is on their phone while in charge of a car – next time it won’t necessarily be you who spots them, it could be the police.

Always remember: safety first

If you’re in any doubt, don’t risk it. Pull over, switch the engine off and then look at your phone. Also, remember that just because it is legal, doesn’t always mean it is safe for you to do it. If you find talking on a hands-free phone distracting while driving – don’t do it. There are few things that are so urgent that they cannot wait for you to have finished driving before you attend to them.

If you have been caught, call us on 0800 612 4859 for free advice no how best to fight your case.

mobile phone fines

New fines imposed for using mobile phone at the wheel

It is illegal to use your mobile phone while driving a car – and this has been widely publicised. This doesn’t just apply to when the vehicle is moving, but also applies to when the car is stationary at traffic lights or waiting in a queue of traffic. The law is very clear, mobile phone and cars have no place together.

The only way mobile phones can be used in cars on the correct side of the law is if they are being used as a sat nav (from a safely mounted position) or if you’re using a hand-free option (earphones or Bluetooth, for example.)

If you’re caught using your phone, the penalties are getting steeper

This year we have seen that the fines for drivers who are caught using their mobile phone at the wheel are increasing. From February this year, fines were increased from £100 to £200 and these would accompany 6 points on your driving license.

Previously, if you were a first-time offender, you’d be offered the chance to do a corrective training course – this has now been scrapped so there is no leniency for first timers.

This is the latest in a swift history of increases for this offence, which is likely to be because of an a persistence in levels of offenders, and an increase in the things that motorists are attempting to do with their phones while their concentration should be fully focussed on the road.

History of fines for using mobile phones while driving

Since fines were first introduced, law enforcement has struggled to get the level of deterrent to work effectively – frustratingly there has been no decreased in the number of offenders, which is one of the reasons this latest increase has been brought in.

  • 2003 Mobile phone fines first introduced at £30
  • 2007 Fine increased to £60
  • 2013 Increased again to £100
  • 2017 Doubled to £200 plus 6 points

Don’t let the fine or the points be the only factor you consider here – it is the safety of yourself, other road users and pedestrians that are most important. There are very few things that are so urgent that they warrant putting yourself or others at risk. Be patient, keep your phone out of reach while you’re driving and don’t be tempted to divert your attention from the road. If you really have to check your phone while you’re in the car, pull over to a safe parking place, turn off the engine, and the phone is your oyster.

Here at Motoring Defence, our team is experienced in defending cases of using mobile phones while driving; call 0800 612 4859 for free advice on how best to proceed.

drink driving advice

The party season and driving the morning after a big night out

A lot of people can probably relate to the feeling of drinking rather too much alcohol of an evening and then regretting it the morning after. Waking up nursing a poorly head or feeling queasy isn’t pleasant, but depending on how much you have consumed and how long your body has had to break down the alcohol, it could be a lot more serious than having a glass of water and a couple of paracetamol.

If you have consumed a lot of alcohol, ‘sleeping it off’ may not always be possible in the time available. Your body breaks down approximately one unit per hour (and this can be affected by other factors too, such as your BMI, height, weight and your individual alcohol tolerance). Our drink driving advice is that it is very important that you allow your body sufficient time to break down the alcohol units before getting behind the wheel.

Quite often, motorists who are caught over the drink driving limit in the morning are not repeat offenders or problem drinkers, they are people who have not realised their limits nor fully understood how long it takes to break down alcohol.

Drink driving advice: let common sense prevail

Generally speaking, if you’re drinking late and you have to get up early, you are putting yourself at risk. Try to plan ahead if at all possible; for example, arrange a lift or look at public transport options if you’re planning on consuming alcohol in the evening you have somewhere important to be the next morning. Alternatively, book a taxi. Although the expense might seem indulgent at the time, it is not worth putting others or yourself at risk.

If you’re in any doubt, don’t risk it. Alcohol can affect judgement and the speed of your reactions. Even if it has been a while since you stopped drinking and you’ve managed to get some sleep, if you think there is any chance you’re still over the limit then don’t get behind the wheel of a car. Imagine if you were involved in an accident – regardless of the outcome, you would have to carry the guilt of wondering whether your judgement was impaired even slightly by what you had consumed the night before.

Driving Offence Advice

Make sure your licence is up to date – or it could be a costly mistake

Most motorists aren’t aware that driving licences have an expiry date on them, which means an estimated 2.2 million drivers are actually in possession of an out of date licence.

For people with a photocard driving licence (which is most people nowadays), you’ll notice that each of the different lines of information is labelled with a different code, and the one you are looking for is code ‘4b’, which is in the middle of the front of the card, to the right of the photo. The 4b date lets you know how long your licence is in date for so you know and it needs to be renewed.

Since photocard driving licences were introduced in replace of the paper ones in 1998, they have had a 10-year expiry date on the card. Once the licence expires you are obliged to apply for a renewal and to update the photograph.

You’ll get a reminder in the post

If a brown envelope arrives from the DVLA this is usually something that is opened with trepidation and the worry of a speeding fine, but not all news from the DVLA is bad news. If you’re getting close to the expiry on your driving licences then the DVLA will write to you to bring this to your attention.

If you’ve recently moved to a new house, or for students who have perhaps been living away from home or have had multiple university or college addresses, it’s very important that the DVLA have your up to date address details. Not only are you legally obliged to keep this information up to date (and can face a fine for this too), if your reminder is sent to an out of date address then you risk missing the heads up that your licence is due to expire.

If you are stopped by the police and you present an out of date driving licence, then the fine is hefty. You could be fined as much as £1,000. The same fine can apply if your address is outdated or if you haven’t updated your name following a legal name change such as marriage or divorce.

Although you have to pay a small sum to have the photograph updated there is no fee to update your address.

Five minutes is all it takes

Next time you put the kettle on to have a cup of tea, check your driving licence while the water is boiling. That quick task will do one of two things. It will either reassure you that you’re still in date and have nothing to worry about for the time being, or it will be the push you need to get your licence renewed. Either way, you’ll be able to enjoy your tea with the peace of mind that you’ve ticked one more job off your to-do list.

speeding fines

New rules: motorist to be charged up to 175 per cent of their weekly wage for an offence

Law enforcement agencies are always looking for new ways to discourage people from breaking the law. Whether this is with a more severe financial penalty, a greater likelihood of spending time in prison or other initiatives such as points on a driving licence, if they can introduce successful deterrents then they’re onto a winner.

New approach to calculating speeding fines

In April 2017, a new rule was introduced to be able to bring harsher financial penalties to speeding motorists. Under the old system, set fines were in place, regardless of how much you earned. So someone who was earning minimum wage could expect to receive the same fine as someone who earned over £100k per year. The deterrent was arguably not the same, as a set fine would have made much more of a dent in the former’s wallet than the latter.

Previously, these were the parameters:

  • Minimum fine of £100 plus three points on your driving licence
  • Maximum fine of £1000 on normal roads, rising to £2,500 on motorways

Under the new rules, the penalties are essentially means tested, which means that your earnings are taking into consideration when a fine is being awarded. The new rule means that motorists can be charged up to 175% of their weekly income if they are caught exceeding the speed limit.

There will still be caps in place, for example a millionaire wouldn’t be charged eye watering sums of money for their speeding crime. The cap of £2,500 would remain in place, with fines beneath that being staggered much more appropriately based on earnings. The minimum fine outlined above with the three fixed penalty points will also remain the same.

What does “up to” 175% mean?

The fines would be staggered depending on how far over the speed limit motorists were travelling, which would be discretionary and decided at the time of sentencing.

  • Between 1 and 10 MPH over the limit – this would incur a fine between 25 and 75% of your weekly wage
  • Between 11 and 21 MPH over the limit – this would incur a fine between 75 and 125% of your weekly wage
  • Between 22+ MPH over the limit – this would incur a fine between 125 and 175% of your weekly wage

If you’ve been charged with a speeding offence and are worried you’ll be liable for a hefty fine, then it is always worth consulting a solicitor. At Motoring Defence, we will not charge you for initial advice so even if you decide that you do not need a lawyer to represent you then we can give you some pointers as to what you can expect. Call us on 0800 612 4859 and speak to one of the team.

speeding rules

Speeding fines – does the 10% rule really apply or is this an urban myth?

You often hear motorists talk with real confidence and authority about the ‘10% rule’ when it comes to obeying the speed limit. It seems to have become motoring gospel that you have got a bit of leeway when it comes to speeding rules, due to the accuracy of the recording device. The 10% rule would mean that whatever the speed limit is, you are able to exceed it by 10% and not receive a fine. So, in a 30 MPH zone, 33 MPH shouldn’t land you with a fine, and in a 50 MPH zone, 55 shouldn’t, and so on. But just how much truth is there in this?

According to the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC), there is likely to be some truth to it, but the 10% rule is not something that if officially recognised. It is more like a rule of thumb rather than an actual rule: “the 10 per cent rule is allowed in guidance but it is not part of legislation”.

Ultimately, the decision lies with the police enforcement officers

The accuracy of the recording device is certainly one reason why there is a slight amount of wiggle room in the speed you have been recorded at. There is also the human element – the responsibility of the police offer to decide whether or not to stop you for speeding. This is likely to be based upon the level of danger posed by the speed you were travelling at. An example of this could be that if you’re travelling at 75 MPH rather than 70 MPH, one could argue there would be very little difference in the outcome of an accident. However, if you came into contact with a pedestrian whilst travelling at 35 MPH rather than 30 MPH this could be the difference between life and death.

Speed limits are set for a good reason

All things considered, while understanding whether or not there is a 10% rule or not is interesting, the most important thing to remember is that speeding rules are defined and set for public safety. They are there to keep drivers and pedestrians safe so we should be adhering to them no matter what, not trying to work out whether or not we can ‘get away’ with travelling a little bit faster than the signs suggest.