Road Traffic Act


Road Traffic Act: A Summary

There are many different Acts of the Road Traffic Act which determine what constitutes an offence under UK motoring law. The two most relevant Acts are the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 and the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Both of these Acts define specific motoring laws which apply in the UK.

road traffic act

The Road Traffic Act from 1984 covers the offence of speeding which is perhaps one of the most common road traffic offences. Under Section 82 of this Act, restricted roads are defined. Many people will argue that they were not aware what the speed limit was because there were no signs.

However, signage is not required if the road is automatically restricted to the 30mph speed limit. Roads which automatically fall into this restriction include those which are lined by street lights and these lights are separated by a distance of no more than 200 yards. If signs are displayed, they overrule any lighting regulations, but if signage is not present and street lighting is, the road user should abide by the speed limits.

Section 89 of the Road Traffic Act outlines that an individual who drives a vehicle on a road at a speed which exceeds the limit will be guilty of a speeding offence. However, the Act states that a conviction cannot be successful based on the evidence provided by the witness alone.

For a successful offence for speeding, evidence must be confirmed and this can be achieved in a number of different ways. One of the main methods of corroboration is through the presentation of evidence from a speed camera or handheld device used by the police. Even where a device is absent, the evidence can still be confirmed if there were two police officers to witness the offence.

One of the more interesting sections of the Road Traffic Act is Section 89 (4) and it is a section that is not well known. Employers can be accountable for the offence, if they ask their employee to complete a journey on their behalf when at work and it would be impractical for the employee to carry out the journey in the assigned timeframe without exceeding the speed limit.

If employers place unrealistic expectations on their staff to carry out particular driving duties, they are also liable for the offence.

Due care and attention

The second Act which is commonly referred to for motoring offences is the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. In particular, section 3 of this act is used which relates to driving without due care and attention.

For this offence to be proved, the Crown Prosecution Service have to provide proof ‘beyond all reasonable doubt’ that the vehicle was used on a road without due care and attention or with little regard to other road users. If the Crown Prosecution Service concludes that the offender was guilty, the punishment can range from between 3 and 9 penalty points on their licence and a driving ban as well as fines and other court costs.

Driving under the influence of alcohol

As one of the more serious offences, driving under the influence of alcohol can result in a driving ban. The rules surrounding this offence can be found in Section 5 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 and covers attempting to drive or being in charge of a vehicle on a road or public place.

If an individual is accused of driving or being in charge of a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and they are over the legal limit, the individual may have a defence if they can prove that on the balance of probabilities they would not have driven whilst still over the legal limit. If a driver is found guilty of this offence it can carry 10 points on their licence and a discretionary ban.

Driving without an MOT Certificate

Driving without a valid MOT certificate is an offence and if caught, the offender can face significant fines. As it is not an ‘endorsable’ offence, penalty points or disqualification cannot be issued by the court. Nevertheless, if a driver uses a vehicle which is not roadworthy and the Police have reason to believe that these faults are dangerous, the individual can be charged under a different offence which does carry the risk of a ban and penalty points.

It is important to note however that you don’t have to own the vehicle to be liable for it. If you borrow a vehicle from a friend and it does not have a valid MOT certificate, you will be held liable if you are found driving the vehicle.

Driving without insurance

Driving without appropriate insurance is also deemed to be an offence under Section 143 of the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988. Driving without suitable insurance can result in a penalty of between 6 and 8 points on the drivers licence. In addition, if you are driving for the purposes of employment but you believe that you are fully insured and the vehicle is not yours, you cannot be found guilty for the offence.

Failure to provide driver information

Under Section 172 of the Act, falls the offence of failing to provide driver information. This is a complex piece of legislation and even more difficult to prove. This offence occurs when an individual has been asked to prove their identity by the Police.

A police officer will usually request that the registered keeper of the vehicle is to provide driver information but technically, they can ask any person who may hold this information. Failure to provide this information is an offence and the penalty is 6 points on the drivers licence and a substantial fine if found guilty.

The use of a mobile phone

This offence is committed when an individual driving a vehicle uses a handheld mobile phone. An offence can also be committed when allowing another individual to drive on the road while using a phone. Legislation in relation to the use of mobile phones when driving is complicated.

The only defence that can be used to excuse using a mobile while driving is if the individual is calling the emergency services and it is not safe or practical for you to stop somewhere convenient to make the call. An offence is also committed if you use a mobile phone while teaching a learner driver.

The Road Traffic Act is perhaps one of the most lengthy pieces of legislation. It outlines a number of different scenarios and there are hundreds of different offences, all of which carry varying degrees of penalties and punishments.

About the author:

This article was written by a member of the Expert Answers legal advice team. Expert Answers provides online legal advice on all aspects of UK Law to users in the United Kingdom.

Looking for answers? Ask Solicitors Online Now

Use the box below to put your question to a solicitor or barrister. You will usually have an answer back within minutes.