Steer clear of traffic fines
As we rush around doing our shopping, driving to work, and racking up miles on the motorway visiting family, it can be all too easy to commit a few motoring offences. But those little misdemeanours could result in fines, points on your licence, increased insurance premiums or, worse, a tragic accident. So make sure you don't get caught out this year with our guide to the crimes and the penalties.
Using your phone while driving
According to research from GoCompare, 31% of drivers admit to making calls without a hands-free kit, 30% have read a text message and 23% have used a smartphone to get directions while driving. Younger drivers, aged between 25 and 34, are the age group that are most likely to be distracted, according to the research.
Ian Crowder, spokesperson for the AA, says. "The number of people getting caught for this is rocketing. Fines have just gone up to £100, and you'll get three points on your licence." These points will stay on your licence for four years and will need to be declared to your insurance company every time you renew.
Scott Kelly, head of motor at GoCompare.com, explains: "We found that a CU80 conviction (using a mobile phone while driving) or TS10 conviction (failing to comply at traffic light signals) could each add £90 to a 25 year-old's premium but having both could add £230 or more."
Crowder adds: "If you're involved in an accident,the police will routinely check your mobile phone records to see if you were using it at the time and you could then see your conviction increased to dangerous or careless driving. You could end with a fine of up to £5,000 and possible disqualification."
When you're in a hurry and the roads are quiet, it can be all too easy to break the speed limit. According to GoCompare, more than a third of drivers say they have sped when they have "believed it safe to do so" while 29% admit to slowing down for speed cameras, before speeding up as soon as they've passed them. But, for obvious reasons, both the legal and financial implications of speeding can be severe.
The level of punishment will depend on the road you are driving on and how far in excess of the speed limit you are. For minor offences, you may get away with a verbal warning or be offered the chance to have any penalties waived if you go on a speed awareness course at your own expense. Alternatively, you may be given a fixed charge notice – otherwise known as a speeding ticket – which now carries a £100 fine and three to six points on your licence.
For the most serious speeding offences, you could be prosecuted. You will have to go to court and could be fined up to £1,000 (£2,500 for motorway offences) and get up to 12 points on your licence with possible disqualification.
Crowder says: "Historically, insurers have ignored a single speeding offence but that is changing now. Some of the cheapest insurers won't even quote."
Drinking and driving
In 2012, 290 people were killed by drunk drivers, up by 26% on 2012, according to the latest government figures. So it's no surprise the penalties for driving over the limit are severe. If you are caught driving – or attempting to drive – a car while over the legal limit, you could get six months in prison, a fine up to £5,000 and a driving ban of at least one year. As a result, if your job involves driving, you may find yourself out of work and you could struggle travelling to countries such as the US.
You will also see a significant increase to your car insurance premiums. Having a drink-driving offence on your records, once the ban has been served, can add a typical £125 to your car insurance, according to GoCompare. The conviction will stay on your licence for 11 years. Despite these risks, one million motorists drink-drive every week, figures from Coca-Cola reveal.
And it's not just about being mindful of driving home drunk - you also need to be aware that you may still be over the limit the following day. Government figures show that in 2012, 20% of accidents involving drunk drivers took place the morning after. As a rough guide, it takes one hour for your body to get one unit of alcohol out of your system but the exact time will depend on your gender, size, metabolism, liver, even your mood, so always err on the side of caution.
Parking in a disabled or parent and child space
When you're frantically trying to get your shopping done, it can be all too tempting to nab a disabled parking space close to the stores but unless you have a blue badge on display in your car, you could receive a penalty charge notice in a council-run car park.
If you don't have kids with you and you park in places reserved for parents with children, you usually only get a seething glare or sharp words from a frazzled mother, but some car-park operators are cracking down. Sainsbury's fines ineligible drivers £50 for parking in either disabled or parent and child bays, and all money raised is donated to charity.
The law on drink-driving
There are strict alcohol limits for drivers:
- 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
- 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
- 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine
However, it is not possible to say how much alcohol you can drink and stay below the limit as it depends on your weight, age, sex and metabolism (the rate your body uses energy), plus the type and amount of alcohol you're drinking, what you've eaten recently and your stress levels at the time.
If you are convicted of drink-driving, the penalties include:
- A minimum 12-month driving ban
- A criminal record
- A fine of up to £5,000
- An endorsement on your licence for 11 years
- Six months in prison (up to 14 years in prison if you cause death by careless driving while under the influence)
Plus you will face increased car insurance costs, job loss, and trouble getting into countries such as the US. The Institute of Advanced Motorists calculates a drink-drive conviction could cost between £20,000 and £50,000 as a result of fines, solicitor's fees, increase in car insurance and loss of job.
This is more usually a feature of car insurance but it can also crop up in contents, mobile phone and pet insurance policies. An excess is the amount of money you have to pay before the insurance company starts paying out. The excess makes up the first part of a claim, so if your excess is £100 and your claim is for £500, you would pay the first £100 and the insurer the remaining £400. Many online insures let you set your own excess, but the lower the excess, the more expensive the premium will be.