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licences have an expiry date on them, which means an estimated 2.2 million drivers are actually in possession of an out of date licence.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legally obliged to keep this information up to date (and can face a fine for this too), if your reminder is sent to an out of date address then you risk missing the heads up that your licence is due to expire.

If you are stopped by the police and you present an out of date driving licence, then the fine is hefty.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 The same fine can apply if your address is outdated or if you haven’t updated your name following a legal name change such as marriage or divorce.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

history of breathalysers

The history of breathalysers

Here in the UK, we are under no illusions about drink driving – it is illegal and can land you with a hefty fine, driving ban and/or prison sentence. This is not new legislation, in fact the UK introduced its first laws to tackle drink driving in 1925, where it was declared that it was officially an “offence to be found drunk in charge of ANY mechanically driven vehicle”.

Since then, law enforcement officers have had various different means of catching those who still choose to consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel.

In the early days

The means of testing whether or not a person had consumed too much alcohol to drive were not always very scientific. This used to be based on subjective observations of the individual – i.e. could they walk in a straight line, could they coherently hold a conversation, could the effectively touch their nose with their finger, and so on. Naturally these were subject to challenge and were based on integrity of the officers, so a more robust method was required.

Once scientists discovered that alcohol could be traced in the breath of an individual and within their urine, many years of testing and innovations followed. Many different tests were undertaken, trying to effectively measure the amount of alcohol someone had consumed, by testing:

  • BrAC (breath alcohol concentration), and/or
  • BAC (blood alcohol concentration)

First known breathalysers

In America during the 1930s and 1940s, the amusing (yet appropriately) named “drunkometer”, “intoximeter” and the “alcometer” were all developed. These inventions enabled police to test the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath by collecting expelled breath and combining it with a substance called acidified potassium permangate solution. The way in which this solution reacted enabled officers to assess how much alcohol was in the body.

Things have come a long way since then but the early principles have guided modern breathalyser

speeding questions

If another car sets off the camera, can this affect me?

A common question we often hear asked is whether or not speed camera can make mistakes when recording speeding cars. Many motorists might wonder whether if they are travelling past a speed camera and another car sets it off by travelling too fast, is there a chance that they will be landed with a speeding offence incorrectly?

This is a good question but the answer is that you don’t need to worry. If you’re travelling at the correct speed and another car sets off a speed camera near to you then you will not receive a letter incorrectly, the cameras have back-up systems to ensure that this doesn’t happen.

What are these back-up systems?

The most common type of speed camera present on UK roads in the Gatso camera. These are the ones that you will often see mounted on the overhead gantries on motorways. The first way the camera works is to take two images in quick succession, which enables police to determine how quickly you were travelling between these points. The timing of the images and the distance travelled enables them to calculate your miles per hour.

In addition to this, you’ll probably have noticed white lines painted on the roads underneath speed cameras. This is the second way of identifying how quickly your vehicle has passed between two marked points. Police will look at the exact time your vehicle entered the lined area, and how long it took to pass through the other lines. This also enables a miles per hour calculation to be undertaken.

Although there is a degree of automation in any process such as this, if there are two cars travelling close together and one sets off the speed camera, human assessment of the two recording devices will enable the police to work out which vehicle triggered the camera.

So if you’re travelling at (or under) the speed limit you have no reason to be concerned, even if other motorists around you are exceeding the limit. These systems have been operating for many years, and their readings are accurate and precise enough to be used in courts of law, so you can trust them to correctly identify a speeder versus other motorists.

motorway camera advice

Can overhead motorway cameras still catch you if they’re ‘off’?

Speed cameras on overhead motorway gantries are a familiar sight across the UK, with almost all major motorways being upgraded to ‘smart’ motorways. When motorways become congested or there is an accident, the speed limit is altered accordingly to help streamline the flow of traffic. When a speed is shown on the boards, it is not a recommendation, it is a stipulation. If you exceed the speed shown, you’ll be caught by the camera and will receive a fine.

These cameras are not usually recording an average speed taken over a longer distance; they are recording your speed at the exact point that a camera is installed. Average speed cameras tend to be labelled accordingly and are often installed during patches of temporary road works.

The overhead boards are also used to direct motorists to use the hard shoulder when the lanes are very congested, or when an accident or breakdown requires the hard shoulder to be reverted back to a refuge area. The gantries are also used to alert motorists to problems up ahead – particularly bad areas of congestion that you might wish to try and avoid, or the expected time before reaching key junctions.

Smart motorways were first introduced in 2006, and there are now over 200 miles of motorways in the UK that are controlled by smart cameras on overhead gantries. This is set to double in the near future, with plans for another 200 miles of cameras in the pipeline.

If there is no speed shown on the boards, the speed limit is the national limit. In the case of a motorway, this is 70 MPH due to the presence of the central reservation. So what happens if you exceed the national speed limit when the boards look like they’re off? Are they still recording? Will you still risk getting a fine?

Off doesn’t always mean off

The answer is it differs on different motorways. Generally speaking, the cameras are often only recording when the national speed limit has been lowered. However, some are still recording and if you exceed the limit you will indeed receive a speeding penalty.

This is somewhat controversial, with some motorists believing that they should be given fair warning when a camera is recording and when it is not. However, regardless of how you feel about the legitimacy of this, it is definitely not worth taking the risk. Keeping your speed consistent with the national limit is safest for you and for other motorists, and it will mean you don’t risk receiving an unexpected speeding fine in the post.

If you’ve been charged with speeding then we’re available 24/7 at Motoring Defence to advise you on the next steps and how best to fight your case.  Just call us on 0800 612 4859.

motorway speeding advice

Caught speeding on the motorway – how many fines should I expect?

When you’re travelling on the motorway, speed cameras can often be frequently spotted. Whether these are positioned on overhead gantries on smart motorways, or placed along a length of road works, sometimes we may pass tens of speed cameras in any one journey.

Some of these cameras are standalone, and are recording speed at a given point, while others are designed to track a vehicle’s average speed between two different cameras.

So if you are motorway speeding over a prolonged period of time, and pass many different cameras, does that mean that you’ll receive a fine for every camera that captures you, or will it be aggregated into just one fine?

It depends on how the speed trap has been set:

Speeding fine scenario 1

You’re travelling along a motorway and the overhead cameras have reduced the speed to 50 MPH over several miles. Each overhead gantry has the same stipulation in terms of speed.

If you’re caught speeding through the whole section then it is unlikely that you would be fined from the reading of each camera. The likelihood is that it would be one fine that takes into account that the limit has been exceeded on one particular stretch of road.

Speeding fine scenario 2

You pass through a 50 MPH restricted zone on the motorway and are exceeding the speed limit. This zone ends and then shortly afterwards you pass through a 60 MPH zone on the same motorway. You’re still exceeding the limit.

This is different as you have got two different restrictions in two different areas (albeit in the same strength of road) and you’ve been caught exceeding both. You should expect that you may receive a fine for both of these as they are likely to be treated as two separate incidents.

Don’t assume that lightening won’t strike twice

With this in mind, if you think you’ve exceeded the limit and you are continuing to travel through a continuous strength of traffic calming, the risk of just one fine isn’t a reason to continue to speeding. Ultimately, the speed limits are in force to keep motorists and highway maintenance teams safe, so realising you’re going too fast should be the wakeup call you need to slow down a bit. Receiving one fine or multiple fines shouldn’t really be the deterrent, driving safely should always be the priority.

If you’ve been charged with speeding then we’re available 24/7 at Motoring Defence to advise you on the next steps and how best to fight your case. Just call us on 0800 612 4859.

drink driving ban

How accurate are home breathalysers?

If you’ve had an alcoholic drink and are considering getting behind the wheel of the car, then it is often hard to know whether or not you are under the legal limit. Whether this is a drink you may have consumed earlier in the day, or maybe you’re planning on driving the morning after drinking the night before. Whatever the reason, it is often guesswork whether or not the alcohol has been broken down by the body sufficiently to avoid a drink driving ban.

There is a possible solution to this. It is possible to buy home breathalysers which can enable you to test whether or not it is safe to drive. But can these be relied upon? Are they accurate enough to trust?

Understanding what ‘good’ looks like for home breathalysers

It is generally accepted that these devices can vary a lot in terms of their overall effectiveness, so it is well worth doing your research before you commit to buying one. DrinkDriving.org.uk sums this up perfectly, in their assessment that “prices of breathalysers vary a great deal, as do their reliability, quality and accuracy”.

There are a number of variables that can affect the reading on a home breathalyser, so it is important to be aware of all of these before putting your trust in such a device.

What are the main factors that can affect how accurate home breathalysers are?

  • Whether or not it is used correctly
  • The make and model you have purchased
  • Whether or not there is ‘residual’ alcohol in the mouth

Reinforcing the amount of variation found between the different brands; gadget testing website, the Wirecutter, tested many different home breathalysers over a period of four years, comparing their readings with those taken by official police equipment. Their research considered reviews of over 100 home breathalysers, drawing up a shortlist and testing 15 different models.

If in any doubt – don’t drive

Although home breathalysers could be regarded as a helpful device to have on hand, the Wirecutter sensibly concludes “if you’ve been drinking enough to think about using a breathalyser to see if it’s safe for you to drive, you’re drunk enough that you should call a cab.” The information gleaned from a home breathalyser can act as a useful tool to understand how quickly your body breaks down alcohol, but the best rule of thumb to apply is that if you have had any form of alcoholic drink, it is always best to avoid the car.

drink and drive

Coca-Cola designated driver scheme

Many people will have a group of friends or family where they take it in turns to be the designated driver for a night out at a pub or restaurant to avoid the drink and drive problem. One of the biggest frustrations for the designated driver is how expensive soft drinks can be – often it is as pricey to purchase a soft drink as it is to buy an alcoholic beverage. That hardly seems fair.

drink and drive schemeSoft drinks giant Coca-Cola recognised this frustration and was keen to do its bit to support designated drivers by “offering a free second soft drink on Coca-Cola (including classic Coca-Cola, Diet Coke and Coke Zero), Schweppes or Appletiser”. This was rolled out over Christmas as part of Coca-Cola’s annual road safety campaign. The scheme was a partnership initiative with drink driving safety organisation, THINK! Drivers simply needed to present their car keys at the bar to qualify for the BOGOF on named soft drinks.

Not the acceptable norm

Coca-Cola and THINK! hoped that the campaign would help raise awareness and acceptability of being the designated driver. They hoped it would further reinforce the belief that it is not acceptable to drink and drive, nor is it worth the risk of being banned which is the most likely result of a successful conviction.

According to the UK Government, “the number of people killed in drink-drive accidents has been reduced by over three-quarters since 1979 thanks to more than 30 years of government education campaigns and measures to improve enforcement.” Statistics such as this suggest that attitudes are indeed changing and initiatives like the Coca-Cola scheme are making positive steps to help reduce alcohol-related driving accidents.

As well as being a massive help to colleagues, friends and family, if you’ve agreed to be the designated driver then promotions such as this should certainly help ease the burden on your wallet.

Perhaps pubs and restaurants could take this one step further by offering chilled water to designed drivers to help them stay hydrated throughout the evening when they have had enough soft drinks.

speed camera accuracy

Ever wondered about speed camera accuracy?

Speed cameras have been a common feature across the UK for many years, with motorists now well aware of what they are and what they are designed to do. The signature yellow or grey boxes are well signed and have been installed in many places where it has been found that motorists tend to exceed the speed limit.

So just how do these speed cameras work and how accurate are they?

The yellow speed cameras that we are familiar with seeing in our towns and country roads are called Gatso speed cameras and they have been around since 2007. They now record speed digitally, having previously used film when they were first introduced. The use of digital technology now means that footage can be viewed instantly, whereas previously an operative would need to manually retrieve a tape from inside the camera.

The way the camera works is it takes two very quick photos of a passing vehicle using radar technology. The time it takes for the vehicle to pass between the two points enables the camera to calculate the speed at which the vehicle is travelling.

There is also a back-up method built into the cameras so that there can be no dispute of how fast the vehicle was travelling. This is all to do with the white lines that are painted on the road in the vicinity of the camera. The camera can track how fast the vehicles are travelling between the lines, and depending on the speed limit of that particular road, it can calculate whether or not the vehicle is travelling too fast.

This secondary reading isn’t just simply a backup; it is now a legal requirement to ensure that there is no plausible challenge over the readings and ensure speed camera accuracy.

The roadside cameras are accurate to within 0.5 miles per hour (MPH) so if you have been caught travelling over the speed limit then it is going to offer a very precise measurement of exactly how far over the limit you were. Weather conditions can affect the accuracy, but only marginally. For example, a reading in clear, bright, daylight conditions is likely to have less of a margin for error compared with a foggy, rainy, night time reading – however, this is all taken into account, and still doesn’t exceed the 0.5 MPH expected deviation.

Although most speeding offences result in points and a fine, some drivers might be at risk of losing their licence due to totting where you’ve reached 12 points and results in disqualification for six months. If you’re concerned about the potential loss of your licence and the impact that will have, give Motoring Defence a call on 0800 612 4859 and we can give you free advice on your position.