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Report No. 234

3. Position in UK

3.1 The principal enactments relating to road traffic are the Road Traffic Act 1988 and the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988 (both as amended and extended by the Road Traffic Act 1991), the Road Traffic (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1988 and the Road Safety Act 2006. Nothing in these Acts authorizes a person to use on a road a vehicle so constructed or used as to cause a public or private nuisance, or affects the liability, whether under statute or common law, of the driver or owner so using such a vehicle.1

Separate enactments govern the taxation, licensing and registration of all road vehicles and the operation and special licensing of goods vehicles and passenger vehicles. There is also legislation containing powers for controlling traffic, parking, speed limits and other matters (see the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984).2

1. Halsbury's Laws of England, 4th Edn., Reissue (2000), Vol. 40(1), Para 2.

3.2 The following are certain of offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988:

Section 1. Causing death by dangerous driving. "A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence."

Section 2. Dangerous driving. "A person who drives a mechanically propelled vehicle dangerously on a road or other public place is guilty of an offence."

Section 2A. Meaning of dangerous driving. "(1) For the purposes of sections 1 and 2 above a person is to be regarded as driving dangerously if (and, subject to sub-section (2) below, only if)-

(a) the way he drives falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver, and

(b)it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving in that way would be dangerous.

(2) A person is also to be regarded a driving dangerously for the purposes of sections 1 and 2 above if it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving the vehicle in its current state would be dangerous.

(3) In subsections (1) and (2) above "dangerous" refers to danger either of injury to any person or of serious damage to property; and in determining for the purposes of those subsections what would be expected of, or obvious to, a competent and careful driver in a particular case, regard shall be had not only to the circumstances of which he could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.

(4) In determining for the purposes of subsection (2) above the state of a vehicle, regard may be had to anything attached to or carried on or in it and to the manner in which it is attached or carried."

Section 2B. Causing death by careless, or inconsiderate, driving. "A person who causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, is guilty of an offence."

Section 3. Careless, and inconsiderate, driving. "If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence."

Section 3ZA. Meaning of careless, or inconsiderate, driving. "(1) This section has effect for the purposes of sections 2B and 3 above and section 3A below.

(2) A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.

(3) In determining for the purposes of subsection (2) above what would be expected of a careful and competent driver in a particular case, regard shall be had not only to the circumstances of which he could be expected to be aware but also to any circumstances shown to have been within the knowledge of the accused.

(4) A person is to be regarded as driving without reasonable consideration for other persons only if those persons are inconvenienced by his driving."

Section 3ZB. Causing death by driving: unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers. "A person is guilty of an offence under this section if he causes the death of another person by driving a motor vehicle on a road and, at the time when he is driving, the circumstances are such that he is committing an offence under-

(a) section 87(1) of this Act (driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence),

(b) section 103(1)(b) of this Act (driving while disqualified), or

(c) section 143 of this Act (using motor vehicle while uninsured or unsecured against third part risks)."

Section 3A. Causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs. "(1) If a person causes the death of another person by driving a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, an.-

(a) he is, at the time when he is driving, unfit to drive through drink or drugs, or

(b) he has consumed so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine at that time exceeds the prescribed limit, or

(c) he is, within 18 hours after that time, required to provide a specimen in pursuance of section 7 of this Act, but without reasonable excuse fails to provide it, or

(d) he is required by a constable to give his permission for laboratory test of a specimen of blood taken from him under section 7A of this Act, but without reasonable excuse fails to do so, he is guilty of an offence.

(2) For the purposes of this section a person shall be taken to be unfit to drive at any time when his ability to drive properly is impaired.

(3) Subsection (1)(b), (c) and (d) above shall not apply in relation to a person driving a mechanically propelled vehicle other than a motor vehicle."

Section 4. Driving, or being in charge, when under influence of drink or drugs. "(1) A person who, when driving or attempting to drive a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence.

(2) Without prejudice to subsection (1) above, a person who, when in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle which is on a road or other public place, is unfit to drive through drink or drugs is guilty of an offence.

(3) For the purposes of subsection (2) above, a person shall be deemed not to have been in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle if he proves that at the material time the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving it so long as he remained unfit to drive through drink or drugs.

(4) The court may, in determining whether there was such a likelihood as is mentioned in subsection (3) above, disregard any injury to him and any damage to the vehicle.

(5) For the purposes of this section, a person shall be taken to be unfit to drive if his ability to drive properly is for the time being impaired."

Section 5. Driving or being in charge of a motor vehicle with alcohol concentration above prescribed limit. "(1) If a perso.-

(a) drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, or

(b)is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, 28after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit he is guilty of an offence.

(2) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under subsection (1)(b) above to prove that at the time he is alleged to have committed the offence the circumstances were such that there was no likelihood of his driving the vehicle whilst the proportion of alcohol in his breath, blood or urine remained likely to exceed the prescribed limit.

(3) The court may, in determining whether there was such a likelihood as is mentioned in subsection (2) above, disregard any injury to him and any damage to the vehicle."

3.3 As per Part I of Schedule 2 to the Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, each of the offences of causing death by dangerous driving, causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving, and causing death by careless driving when under influence of drink or drugs, is punishable with maximum imprisonment of five years. Each of the offences of dangerous driving, and causing death by driving by unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured drivers, is punishable with maximum imprisonment of two years.

The offence of careless, and inconsiderate, driving is punishable only with fine, but of the Level 5 on the standard scale1. Each of the offences of driving or attempting to drive when unfit to drive through drink or drugs, and driving or attempting to drive with excess alcohol in breath, blood or urine, is punishable with maximum imprisonment of six months.

Each of the offences of being in charge of a mechanically propelled vehicle when unfit to drive through drink or drugs, and being in charge of a motor vehicle with excess alcohol in breath, blood or urine, is punishable with maximum imprisonment of three months. Some of these offences are also punishable with fine in the alternative or with both.

1. "standard scale" is a system whereby fines in legislation have maximum levels set against a standard scale; then, when inflation makes it necessary to increase the levels of fines, the legislators need to modify only the scale rather than each individual piece of legislation. The standard scale of fines is only for summary offences, as laid down under section 37 of the Criminal Justice Act 1982; there are 5 Levels on the scale: the amount of fine for Level 1 is pound 200; for Level 2 it is pound 500; for Level 3 it is pound 1,000; for Level 4 it is pound 2,500; for Level 5 it is pound 5,000.

3.4 Other offences under the Road Traffic Act 1988 and other statutes, include offences of dangerous cycling on a road, careless, and inconsiderate, cycling on a road, cycling on a road when under the influence of drink or drugs, motor racing on public ways, unauthorized cycle races on public ways, parking heavy goods vehicles on the verge of a road, driving or parking on cycle tracks, causing danger to road users, leaving vehicles in dangerous positions on a road, causing or permitting a dog without being held on a lead, wanton or furious racing or driving, riding or driving on roadside footways and tethering animals on a highway, non-observance of the rule of the road, and other offences in relation to road traffic consisting of failure to observe the statutory requirements such as those relating to the wearing of seat belts, unroadworthy vehicles, unauthorized protective helmets for motor cyclists, excise licences, driving licences, insurance, parking, traffic signs, speed limits, public service vehicle licences, goods vehicle licensing and wrongful use of a disabled person's badge.

3.5 Most of the offences concerning road traffic are summary offences, punishable with different Levels on the standard scale, also involving obligatory or discretionary disqualification (to hold or obtain a licence), or obligatory endorsement of penalty points1 attributable to the offence, attracting the same, on the driving record, to be taken into consideration on subsequent conviction. Certain road traffic offences are dealt with by way of a fixed penalty rather than by way of prosecution.

1. A penalty point is essentially a formal reprimand; its aim is to influence and improve driver behaviour. Reaching a particular number of penalty points leads to disqualification Penalty points stay for a particular period only.



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