Top 10 Most Common Driving Offences in 2018

So, you've finally passed your theory and practical tests. Congratulations! The hardest part is over, right? Well, no, not really. It's not the case of letting loose now that you've not got an instructor watching your every move. If you make a mistake on the road, you could face serious consequences—from fines to penalty points to disqualification from driving altogether. To make sure you don't fall prey to these mistakes, you might want to have a look at the most common driving offences in the UK.

Our guide will take you through the most common driving offences using the latest statistics from the DVSA. These include everything from prosecution numbers to average fines to how many drivers were disqualified for the offence in 2018. Get all the facts below!

Most common driving offences in the UK

In order to discover which driving offences are the most common in the UK, we decided to consult the resident experts in all things driving-related—the DVSA—and took a deep dive into 2018's driving offences statistics. According to the stats, "prosecutions, convictions and sentences for motoring offences have all increased by 3% over the last year". On the one hand, this could be highlighting the fact that more motorists are committing offences on the roads. On the other hand, it could be reflecting the fact that the DVSA and the police have been cracking down on driving offences in recent years in order to improve road safety.

If you commit a driving offence, you could face a variety of consequences depending on how serious it is. Penalties include:

  • Penalty points: the number you receive will depend on the offence. Points will remain on your licence for up to 11 years. If you receive 12 points or more within 3 years, you'll be disqualified. Unfortunately for new drivers, if you get 6 points or more within 2 years of passing your test, your licence will be revoked.
  • Fines: depending on the offence, you could get an on-the-spot fine or an unlimited one if it ends up in court.
  • Disqualification: in certain cases, drivers face the possibility of being disqualified from driving for a certain number of years if the case ends up in court.

Almost 2.7 million full licence holders have penalty points on their record! Wondering if you live near any penalty point holders? Check out our article on where the UK's worst drivers live.

Now, let's take a look at what the most common driving offences were in 2018 below...

Most common driving offences in 2018

1. Speed limit offences

black-and-white-speed-limit-sign-25 Photo © Chad Elliott (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Top statistics from 2018:
  • 189,109 prosecutions
  • 178,291 findings of guilt (figure counts all offences each person is convicted for separately)
  • 168,550 sentenced to a fine
  • £222 average fine
  • 4,206 offenders directly disqualified from driving

In an unsurprising find, speeding is top of the list for most common driving offences in the UK in 2018. In fact, figures show that prosecutions for speeding saw an increase of 7.2% to 189,109 in 2018.

If you're caught speeding by the police, or a speed camera, you'll be sent a Notice of Intended Prosecution and a Section 172 Notice. You will then need to inform the police who was driving the car at the time of the speeding offence. Now, some speeding offenders, depending on how over the limit they were, will be offered a speed awareness course—meaning you avoid getting points on your licence. This is at the discretion of local police, however, so you might not be given the option. In this case, you would receive 3 points on your licence and a fine of £100. If you end up in court, you're looking at an unlimited fine and the possibility of a driving ban.

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2. Vehicle insurance offences

close-up-of-a-toy-car-with-car-insurance-text Photo © QuoteInspector  (cc-by-nd/2.0)

Top statistics from 2018:
  • 168,964 prosecutions
  • 179,650 findings of guilt
  • 147,254 sentenced to a fine
  • £362 average fine
  • 2,329 offenders directly disqualified from driving

Despite the fact that insurance is a legal requirement for those driving on UK roads, the number of drivers prosecuted for driving without insurance rose by 3.3% to 168,964 in 2018.

If you're driving without insurance, you run the risk of being caught by an ANPR camera which will cross check your registration number against database records. If it's found that you're uninsured, you face a fixed penalty of £300 and between 6 to 8 penalty points—if you're a new driver, this means your licence will be revoked! Then, if your case goes to court, you could get an unlimited fine and disqualified from driving. Don't think that claiming you forgot to renew your insurance will get you off the hook—ignorance is not a defence!

It's really not rocket science. All drivers are legally obligated to have at least third party cover. Whilst it might seem expensive, it's still a better alternative to being disqualified from driving altogether. Plus, there are plenty of ways to get a cheaper deal.

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3. Vehicle registration and excise licence offences


Top statistics from 2018:
  • 100,021 prosecutions
  • 91,228 findings of guilt
  • 89,313 sentenced to a fine
  • £308 average fine

All vehicles on UK roads need to be properly registered and taxed. Failing to do either can result in heavy consequences. Despite this, the number of road users prosecuted for flouting the rules of vehicle registration and excise licence increased by 8.3% to 100,021 in 2018.

If you're driving an untaxed or unregistered vehicle, you could end up having your vehicle clamped and removed. Even if you're not driving the vehicle anymore, if you've not registered it as off the road (SORN), you'll automatically be fined £80. This particular offence also includes those who have failed to notify the DVLA that their vehicle has changed owners—leading to a maximum penalty of £1,000! Additionally, those who have obscured their number plate (intentional or not) could be slapped with a fine, points or even disqualification from driving. All registration numbers must be displayed clearly, so make sure you check!

4. Failing to supply information as to the identity of the driver when required

young driver holding the steering wheel

Top statistics from 2018:
  • 93,394 prosecutions
  • 91,073 findings of guilt
  • 83,371 sentenced to a fine
  • £289 average fine
  • 230 offenders directly disqualified from driving

When a driver is caught committing an offence on the roads, they're usually contacted by the police to disclose the identity of the driver at the time of the offence. Despite this being a seemingly straightforward process, prosecutions for drivers failing to supply this information saw an increase of 5.4% to 93,394 in 2018.

Usually, when a traffic offence occurs, it's caught by an unmanned device, e.g., a speeding camera. As such, the police will have to get in contact with the owner of the vehicle and ask them to identify the driver of the vehicle at the time and location of the offence—they'll usually do this by letter. If you fail to answer the notice, or fail to identify the driver, you could face a fine, up to 6 penalty points and disqualification from driving!

5. Drink driving


Top statistics from 2018:
  • 34,534 prosecutions
  • 35,900 findings of guilt
  • 25,522 sentenced to a fine
  • £306 average fine
  • 32,280 offenders directly disqualified from driving

Another driving offence you probably predicted would be on this list is drink driving. The number of prosecutions for those driving with alcohol in the blood above the prescribed limit saw a marginal drop of 0.3% to 34,534 in 2018.

The legal alcohol limit for driving in England, Wales and Northern Ireland stands at 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres of blood (in Scotland, it's 50 milligrams). Now, it's impossible to say how many drinks it would take for a person to remain under or over the limit—it varies depending on weight, age, sex, metabolism and many other factors. Whilst you might feel fine after having that extra pint, it could have a huge impact on your reactions and reflexes.

The police are allowed to stop anyone on the road they think is driving under the influence. If they pull you over for drink driving, you'll be made to take a breathalyser. If you're over the limit, you could face a driving ban, between 6 to 11 points, a fine and up to 6 months' imprisonment.

6. Neglecting road regulations


Top statistics from 2018:
  • 21,585 prosecutions
  • 23,976 findings of guilt
  • 19,203 sentenced to a fine
  • £214 average fine
  • 174 offenders directly disqualified from driving

As you probably know from your time revising for the theory test, there are hundreds of rules and regulations for driving on UK roads. And for good reason—road safety is vital. Drivers who ignore these rules are guilty of neglecting road regulations. Prosecutions in this category saw a decrease of 4.4% to 21,585 in 2018.

If you're someone who frequently ignores traffic signs and directions—pulling a cheeky right turn when you're not in the right lane—you could end up with 3 penalty points on your licence, not to mention a hefty fine. Those who can't be bothered paying attention to road features like pedestrian crossings, for example, will also face the same consequences. Though it can seem frustrating having to follow the rules all of the time, remember, all it takes is one slip up and you could end up disqualified.

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7. Driving licence related offences

UK driving licence

Top statistics from 2018:
  • 16,001 prosecutions
  • 68,845 findings of guilt
  • 7,361 sentenced to a fine
  • £198 average fine
  • 5,085 offenders directly disqualified from driving

You might not be entirely surprised to find that not all drivers on the road actually hold the right driving licence—or even have one at all! To drive without the right licence, however, is a serious offence. Prosecutions for driving licence-related offences dropped by 2.1% to 16,001 in 2018.

The journey to getting your driving licence can be long, painful and leave you feeling drained of life—but it's worth it in the long run. Unfortunately, there are those who like to take shortcuts and break the rules. If you're caught driving a vehicle that you're not legally allowed to drive, fail to produce a licence, or have been found driving despite your licence being revoked, you could end up being find £1,000. Plus, you could receive between 3 to 6 penalty points and potential disqualification.

Learner drivers could also fall prey to this driving offence. If you're caught driving on a provisional licence without a supervisor and L plates, you could also face the above penalties.

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8. Careless driving offences (excl. mobile phone offences)

Car overtaking cyclist

Top statistics from 2018:
  • 12,257 prosecutions
  • 15,245 findings of guilt
  • 10,208 sentenced to a fine
  • £285 average fine
  • 773 offenders directly disqualified from driving

Safety is of the utmost importance on the roads. It's why all learners are required to read the Highway Code and pass a theory test before they take to the roads for their practical test. Unfortunately, not all drivers abide by the rules of the road and commit careless driving offences. Prosecutions for this category saw a decrease of 7.8% to 12,257 in 2018.

Careless driving is an umbrella term for a variety of actions. If you're hogging the middle lane, tailgating or trying to recklessly overtake another driver, for example, you're partaking in careless driving. Additional examples include driving without due care, poor lane discipline and swerving. Now, police can issue on-the-spot fines of £100 for careless drivers. You may also receive between 3 and 9 penalty points. If you cause death through careless driving, you could end up with up to 11 penalty points, an unlimited fine and imprisonment.

It's vital that you follow the rules of the road and don't let your impatience or temper get the better of you. Not only could doing otherwise cost you your licence, and quite a bit of money, it could endanger other road users. Related articles:

9. Miscellaneous (other) motoring offences

Someone holding glasses looking at eyesight test

Top statistics from 2018:
  • 12,127 prosecutions
  • 16,004 findings of guilt
  • 10,689 sentenced to a fine
  • £259 average fine
  • 5 offenders directly disqualified from driving

Not all driving offences are so easily categorised. For those that don't fall into convenient areas like 'speeding' or 'careless driving', the DVSA uses the category 'miscellaneous (other) driving offences'. The number of prosecutions in this category dropped by 5.7% to 12,127 in 2018.

Examples of miscellaneous driving offences include: leaving your vehicle in a dangerous place, driving without glasses or contact lenses (if needed), motor racing on the highway and refusing to submit to an eyesight test. If you're caught committing these types of driving offences, you run the risk of an on-the-spot fine and an additional fine if it ends up in court. Drivers may also receive between 3 to 11 penalty points depending on the severity of the offence.

10. Drug driving


Top statistics from 2018:
  • 10,215 prosecutions
  • 14,284 findings of guilt
  • 7,869 sentenced to a fine
  • £212 average fine
  • 5,598 offenders directly disqualified from driving

Another offence you might have expected to show up on this list of common driving offences is drug driving. Now, you might want to hold onto something here, because the number of people driving 'with the proportion of specified controlled drug above the specified limit' rose by a whopping 90.3% to 10,215 in 2018!

It is illegal to drive if you're unfit to do so on legal or illegal drugs, or if you have certain levels of illegal drugs in your system (even if it hasn't affected your driving). The police can stop anyone they think is drug driving and make them do a field impairment test, e.g., getting you to walk in a straight line. They may also use a drug kit to screen for illegal substances like cannabis and cocaine. If the police decide that you're unfit to drive, then they will arrest you and ask you to take a blood or urine test at the police station.

If you're convicted of drug driving, you'll get a minimum 1 year ban, between 3 to 11 penalty points, up to 6 months in prison and a criminal record.

~ Using or causing others to use a handheld phone whilst driving


Top statistics from 2017:
  • 9,038 prosecutions
  • 9,789 findings of guilt
  • 8,300 sentenced to a fine
  • £180 average fine
  • 23 offenders directly disqualified from driving

You've probably been making your way through our list of top 10 most common driving offences and been wondering where using a mobile phone whilst driving is. Unfortunately, the DVSA had issues with figures for mobile phone driving offences from 2018. As such, we have no real idea of knowing where this driving offence would rank on our list. To satisfy your curiosity, we've used figures from 2017 instead. Prosecutions for using or causing others to use a handheld phone whilst driving saw a decrease of 29.7% to 9,038 in 2017. Whether this decline continued into 2018 is something we do not know as of yet.

It doesn't matter if you're sitting in traffic or trying to quickly get up directions, it is against the law to use your mobile phone whilst behind the wheel. It's not just drivers who can get into trouble, however. If you're supervising a learner, regardless of whether you're a DVSA-approved instructor, family member or friend, you're not allowed to use your phone. And for good reason: you can't afford to be distracted when there's an inexperienced driver behind the wheel.

If you're caught using or causing others to use a handheld phone whilst driving, you can get 6 penalty points and a hefty £200 fine. Those who have passed their test within the last 2 years, will lose their driving licence. If you're taken to court, you may end up with a driving ban and a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you're a bus or lorry driver).

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