The Top 5 Most Common Driving Convictions in the UK and How to Fight Them

April 10, 2024 1:50 pm
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The Top 5 Most Common Driving Convictions in the UK and How to Fight Them

Being convicted of a driving offence in the UK can come with severe consequences – heavy fines, licence points, insurance rate hikes, and even complete driving bans in some cases. Unfortunately driving convictions have been steadily rising over the past decade according to government statistics.

With more drivers on the road and greater enforcement, it’s easier than ever to get caught out by common offences like speeding, drink driving, running red lights, driving uninsured, and using a mobile phone illegally. Most drivers face at least one conviction in their lifetime.

Understanding the most frequent infractions, typical penalties, and potential defences can help motorists avoid convictions or reduce the impacts if charged. In this guide, we’ll overview the 5 most prevalent driving convictions in the UK and the best ways to contest them if wrongly accused.

Taking some time to learn traffic laws, brush up on penalties, and review challenge strategies gives drivers the knowledge needed to make informed decisions if faced with allegations. Let’s dive in and empower drivers to respond thoughtfully.

Top Conviction #1: Speeding

Top Conviction #2: Drunk Driving

Top Conviction #3: Running a Red Light

Top Conviction #4: Driving Without Insurance

Top Conviction #5: Using a Phone While Driving



Top Conviction #1: Speeding


Speeding is by far the most common driving conviction in the UK. Government statistics show around 2 million speeding tickets are issued each year. With rising speed camera usage and better enforcement technology, this number continues to climb annually.

According to RoSPA, excess speed contributed to 27% of fatal crashes on UK roads in 2022. As a result, authorities take speed limit violations very seriously. While sometimes unintentional, any driver can succumb to pushing limits when late or distracted.

However, with so many speeding allegations issued today through automated means like cameras, errors do happen. Knowing how to review and challenge unfair or misleading charges is important.



The penalties for being convicted of speeding depend on how much over the limit you were driving:

  • Band A – Exceeding the limit by up to 10 mph – 3 points and a £100 fine
  • Band B – Exceeding the limit by 10-20 mph – 4-6 points and a fine up to £2,500
  • Band C – Exceeding the limit by 21-30 mph – 6 points or disqualification and a fine up to £1,000

Fines increase by 50% if committed in a 20 mph zone. For first time offences within Band A limits, drivers may be offered a speed awareness course as an alternative to points and fines if certain criteria are met.

Harsher penalties apply for excessive speeds. Repeat violations often incur driving bans. Aggravating factors like busy roads, poor conditions, and proximity to schools can increase consequences. However, mitigating circumstances may reduce sanctions if argued effectively.


Challenging a Speeding Allegation

While the penalties can be daunting, there are ways to challenge a speeding allegation if you believe it was issued incorrectly or unfairly:

  • Check for errors – Mistakes can happen with vehicle model, colour, driver details, location, date/time etc. Having evidence to prove any data is incorrect can invalidate the charge.
  • Dispute the speed – If your speed was very close to the limit, argue a small margin of error. Evidence from your own calibrated speedometer can support this.
  • Question the detection method – You can dispute the reliability of the equipment used like calibration of speed cameras. Were conditions ideal for reading speeds accurately?
  • Mitigating circumstances – You may be able to argue mitigating factors like an emergency compelled you to exceed the limit briefly.
  • Legal representation – Contesting the charge in court with an experienced lawyer maximises chances of having the allegation overturned or minimised.

While challenging speeding convictions is difficult, it is not impossible if you have valid grounds for dispute and evidence to support your case.


Top Conviction #2: Drunk Driving


Drink driving remains one of the most serious driving offences in the UK. Figures from the Telegraph show there were just over 33,000 prosecutions for drink driving related offences in 2022. Alcohol is also estimated to have been a factor in 17% of all road fatalities in 2021 according to DfT figures.

With alcohol impairing coordination, reaction times and judgement, it’s easy to see why drinking and driving is so dangerous. Those caught over the limit face severe penalties, even for first time offences. However, there are ways to contest charges if your sobriety is in question.



The consequences for being convicted of drink driving in the UK are substantial:

  • Mandatory driving ban – Minimum 12 months for first offence, 3 years for second offence
  • Prison sentence – Up to 6 months and/or unlimited fine for first offence
  • Fines – Up to £5,000 plus fees and victim surcharges
  • Licence points – 3-11 points added for first offences
  • Interlock – Alcohol ignition interlock device may be required after ban ends
  • Insurance – Significant increase in car insurance costs for several years
  • Criminal record – Drink driving shows up on background checks for 5+ years

The driving ban alone can severely impact one’s ability to carry out daily activities from commuting to school runs. On top of that, the fines, fees and insurance hikes create a huge financial burden. The consequences are intended to be harsh to deter drunk driving.


Challenging a Drink Driving Charge

If you feel wrongly accused of drink driving, there are ways to contest the charges:

  • Dispute the testing procedures – Were breathalysers calibrated properly and operated by trained staff? Were protocols followed exactly?
  • Question the accuracy of blood, breath or urine results. Seek independent re-testing for verification.
  • Argue about the timing – Can you prove alcohol was consumed after driving or driving was delayed after drinking?
  • Claim mitigating circumstances like driving for an emergency medical reason
  • Provide character references to demonstrate responsible drinking habits
  • Seek legal advice to maximise chances of reducing ban length or overturning conviction altogether

The key is acting quickly to gather evidence and witnesses that support your defence. An experienced traffic law solicitor can also advise the best strategies based on your particular circumstances.

With severe penalties on the line, those wrongly accused should explore every avenue to reduce or defeat unfounded drink driving allegations through formal legal challenges.


Top Conviction #3: Running a Red Light


Going through a red traffic signal is a common offence captured by roadside cameras and intersection technology across the UK. Scrap Car Comparison stated that there were just over 78,000 red light violations recorded in 2022.

Reasons for running reds range from distractions and impatience to simply being unaware of the change from yellow to red. Whatever the motivation, this dangerous behaviour heightens crash risks and results in stiff penalties if caught by authorities.

With photographic and video evidence, contesting red light convictions can be an uphill battle. However, there are still ways to dispute ambiguous visual records or unfair device calibration issues if wrongly accused.



The consequences for running a red light depend on the nature of the incident but commonly include:

  • Licence points – 3 points are typically issued. Serious violations lead to more points.
  • Fines – Fixed penalty notices of £100 are common. More serious cases can incur heavier fines.
  • Traffic School – Some first time offenders may complete education courses instead.
  • Increased insurance costs – Insurance rates rise over 3+ years after convictions.
  • Possible driving ban – Repeat or dangerous violations can result in suspensions.

Red light cameras catching brief oversights are usually treated as fixed penalty offences. But collisions, close calls, and blatant violations are handled more severely, with court summons and charges like dangerous driving.

The safest approach is to always adhere to signals. But if wrongly accused, penalty mitigation may be possible with context.


Challenging a Red Light Violation

Contesting a red light camera ticket or summons may be possible under certain circumstances:

  • Unclear photographic evidence – If the images don’t clearly identify the driver or capture the violation, they may get dismissed.
  • Vehicle obscuring view – If another vehicle blocked the camera’s line of sight, argue insufficient evidence.
  • Testing and calibration disputes – Question whether devices were tested frequently and calibrated properly.
  • Amber time discrepancies – Compare monitored intersection amber times to Department for Transport guidelines.
  • Mitigating circumstances – Emergencies like avoiding a collision can justify proceeding cautiously.
  • Legal representation – Traffic lawyers can request evidence and pick apart weak cases.

Challenges require submitting written representations to police quickly and may ultimately rely on court hearings. Success depends on the validity of your arguments and quality of supporting evidence.


Top Conviction #4: Driving Without Insurance


Driving without valid motor insurance is unfortunately common on UK roads. According to the Motor Insurers Bureau scheme (MIB) there are around 1 million uninsured motorists on UK roads which is around 4% of all motorists in the country. This illegal act puts everyone at risk and drives up premiums. Still, with the high cost of coverage, some motorists take the chance.

Being caught without valid insurance triggers serious financial penalties, fees and repercussions. The sanctions are intentionally harsh to deter driving without coverage, which puts everyone on the road at risk. However, defences based on mitigating circumstances like unforeseen lapses or emergencies may reduce sanctions if argued convincingly in court.



The consequences for being caught driving without valid insurance include:

  • Fines – A fixed penalty of £300 and 6 points for each uninsured vehicle. If contested in court, fines can reach up to £2,500.
  • License Points – 6 penalty points added per offence. Accumulating 12+ points can trigger a driving ban.
  • Vehicle Seizure – Police have the power to seize and potentially destroy the uninsured vehicle.
  • Fees – Various administrative fees, restoration charges and storage costs if the vehicle is impounded.
  • Increased Insurance Costs – Rates rise dramatically after a conviction for 5+ years.
  • Criminal Record – The offence shows on background checks and can impact employment chances.

The combination of fines, fees, points, seizure, and insurance hikes demonstrates how seriously driving without coverage is taken by authorities. The penalties aim to deter uninsured driving.


Challenging a Driving with No Insurance Charge

If you believe you have been wrongly accused of driving without insurance, potential defences include:

  • Lapse Unawareness – If coverage expired unbeknownst to you and there was no intent to drive uninsured. Evidence of renewal attempts may support this.
  • Emergencies – Arguing there were extraordinary circumstances like a medical crisis that required driving in good faith.
  • Mistaken Identity – Proving it was mistaken identity and you were not the driver of the uninsured vehicle in question.
  • Invalid Policy – The insurer provided inadequate or ineffective coverage in error which was not obvious.
  • Legal Representation – Solicitors can request evidence and build the strongest case for reduced sanctions.

While charges are difficult to overturn fully, first offences and cases with clear mitigating factors may receive lighter punishments if the defence holds merit.


Top Conviction #5: Using a Phone While Driving


As mobile devices have proliferated, offences for using phones illegally while driving have risen steadily across the UK over the past decade. Inattention and distraction from calls, texts, social media and other apps contribute to dangerous driving habits.

Current laws prohibit fully handling phones while operating a motor vehicle. Hands-free modes are permitted, but can still present risks by diverting focus from the road. With better enforcement tools on the horizon, convictions for phone use are likely to climb further.

Defending charges relies heavily on arguing technicalities around hands-free modes or exceptions, rather than trying to refute clear visual evidence. But for those committed to safe driving, the best strategy is proactive prevention through built-in systems and resistance to distraction.



The consequences for being caught improperly using a handheld phone while driving include:

  • Fixed Penalty Fine – This is £200 for a first offence, or £500 for subsequent offences if paid within 28 days. Fines can escalate up to £1,000 if brought to court.
  • License Points – 6 penalty points added to the driver’s licence. 12+ points within 3 years triggers a potential ban.
  • Discretionary Driving Bans – In serious cases with collisions, repeat offences, etc., magistrates can implement bans up to 6 months.
  • Increased Insurance Costs – Insurance premiums rise for 3-5 years after phone use convictions.

The combination of fines, points, and possible licence suspension demonstrates the substantial risks and consequences for drivers who illegally handle and engage with phones while behind the wheel.


Challenging a Conviction

Fighting a conviction for phone use while driving often relies on arguing technicalities:

  • You were completely in hands-free mode – Though risky, this is permitted if devices are mounted and not handled.
  • The offence occurred while legally parked/stopped – Use while pulled over or in non-driving situations may be permissible.
  • Emergency exception applied – Urgent 999 calls made in good faith are exempt from the ban.
  • Unclear visual evidence – Contesting the reliability or clarity of photos/videos used to support the charge.

However, with visual evidence and strict liability, challenges are still difficult. Avoiding distraction and safe setups before driving remain the best defences.



Being convicted of driving offences in the UK can negatively impact your record, finances and mobility through fines, fees, bans and insurance costs. We covered the 5 most common convictions – speeding, drink driving, running reds, insurance lapses, and phone use – that drivers are likely to encounter.

While penalties can be severe, there are options to dispute or minimise sanctions for unfair or inaccurate allegations if you have valid grounds and evidence. Taking proactive steps to prevent violations and unsafe driving is always preferable, however.

If you do receive a conviction notice and wish to explore your defence options fully, consulting with expert driving offence solicitors like those at Driving Solicitors can prove invaluable. There are always ways to fight back against unjustified or disproportionate driving charges.