Common Driving Offences and Penalties

Ellie Dyer-Brown, 5 months ago

5 min read

  • Car ownership

WhoCanFixMyCar discusses driving offences in the UK, which range from commonplace speeding to more serious crimes like drink driving.

Are you familiar with the laws around driving? If not, you're in the right place. This guide covers everything you need to know about driving offences, including the penalties you can get for committing them.


What are motoring offences?

What driving offences are there?

What is the most serious driving offence?

Most common UK motoring offences

Driving offences and penalties

What are motoring offences?

A driving offence is an act that breaks the law. They are much more common than you might think, and they can sometimes affect unsuspecting citizens who aren't aware of the law. 

Police offer has pulled over a driver.

Some offences are so severe that they could land you with a prison sentence - for example, driving under the influence of alcohol - while others, such as driving without an MOT, are more likely to result in a fine. 

If you're unsure when your MOT is due, you can use our free tool to check here.

What driving offences are there?

Driving or vehicle related offences can be grouped into two categories: major and minor offences. 

Dangerous driving

Some examples of dangerous driving include:

  • Overtaking in a dangerous manner.

  • Driving under the influence of drink or drugs.

  • The driver being distracted, for example by reading a map or talking to a passenger.

  • Ignoring traffic lights and road signs.

Careless or inconsiderate driving

Driving without paying proper care and attention is also punishable under the law. Some examples include:

  • Dazzling drivers with un-dipped headlights.

  • Overtaking on the inside.

  • Driving too close to another vehicle.

  • Unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane.

Using a mobile phone

While using a mobile phone can be classed as dangerous driving, it is a specific offence in and of itself. If caught, you will receive penalty points and a fine; however, anyone who has passed their test in the last two years could have their licence revoked. 

A distracted driver using phone.


It’ll come as no surprise that breaking the speed limit is against the law; this is one of the most common driving offences. 

Low-level speeding counts as a minor offence and usually results in a fixed penalty notice. 

Failure to provide identification

The keeper of the vehicle commits an offence if he or she fails to provide identification for the driver at the time of the offence. However, in the UK, it is not a requirement to carry your licence with you - if a police officer requests to see it, you have seven days to produce it at a specified police station. 

Document offences

These include driving a vehicle of a class for which you do not hold a licence, driving without valid insurance, and driving without a valid MOT.

Failure to provide a specimen

Failure to provide a specimen during a breathalyser test at the roadside or the police station if you’re suspected of drug or drink driving is also an offence.

What is the most serious driving offence?

Dangerous driving is the most serious offence a motorist can be penalised for, particularly when it results in the death of a person. The penalty is one to fourteen years in prison and disqualification from driving for at least two years.

Most common UK motoring offences

The two most common UK motoring offences are speeding and driving without insurance.

A silver car driving past a speed camera.

When it comes to speeding, the punishment will vary depending on the severity of the offence - namely, how much the speed limit was exceeded by. Most of the time, a fine and points on the driver’s licence are issued, but some will face instant disqualification.

It is estimated that around two million people drive without the correct insurance annually in the UK. Of these drivers, about 300,000 are caught - but police checks are becoming ever more prevalent.

Driving offences and penalties

Depending on the severity of the offence and the circumstances in which it occurred, different penalties may be given. 

Speeding penalties

The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and three points on your licence. 

If you build up twelve or more penalty points within three years, you could be disqualified from driving. 

Drink driving penalties

Somebody who is drinking alcohol handing over their car keys.

Being in charge of a vehicle while over the drink driving limit could result in:

  • Three months in prison.

  • Up to £2,500 fine.

  • A possible driving ban.

On the other hand, attempting to drive while over the limit could be penalised by:

  • Six months in prison.

  • Unlimited fine.

  • Ban from driving for at least one year.

Causing death while driving over the limit is, as you would expect, punished more severely:

  • Fourteen years in prison.

  • Unlimited fine.

  • Driving ban for at least two years.

  • Extended driving test before your licence is returned.

MOTs determine whether vehicles are safe to drive, so it's a yearly requirement to have one; using a car without an MOT is illegal.

If you think there's something wrong with your car, WhoCanFixMyCar can help you find a reliable local garage to fix the problem and prevent you from failing your MOT.

If you found this guide helpful, you might also like:

Written by Ellie

Ellie Author Pic

Ellie is WhoCanFixMyCar’s Content Writer. She has a BA in English literature from Durham University, a master’s degree in creative writing, and three years of experience writing in the automotive industry. She currently drives a Suzuki Swift.

Find Ellie on LinkedIn.