You may remember the case of the man in West Yorkshire who was fined almost £1,000 and given five penalty points on his driving licence for hogging the middle lane.
Whether you think that was appropriate or not, those penalties are here to stay: drive in an inconsiderate fashion and you’ll face an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three points.
First-time offenders can opt to go on a driving course in lieu of the fine and penalty points and you can, of course, still challenge the decision to prosecute in the courts.
Our guide to the new motoring rules and regulations you need to know about
How to avoid committing a driving offence
The legislation that brought in penalties for careless and inconsiderate driving in line with similar non-motoring fixed-penalty offences encompasses a range of offences, so here’s our guide to avoiding a fine for being an discourteous driver!
Stay in the appropriate lane
Our first tip is simply to not travel in the middle or outside lane unless you are overtaking another vehicle.
If you imagine a three-lane motorway, the lane on the far left (which we will call ‘Lane 1’) is the lane you should use to travel in. The middle lane (‘Lane 2’) and the outside lane (‘Lane 3’) are only there to give you an opportunity to overtake slower moving traffic.
Once you’ve overtaken the slower traffic you should pull back into Lane 1 as soon as it is safe to do so.
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Don't cut into queues
The second tip is to avoid last-minute lane changing to gain an advantage.
The Highway Code is clear as to what lane you should be in when, for example, approaching a roundabout. Despite this, we’ve all seen drivers swoop up a clear lane before switching at the last minute to avoid queuing in the correct lane.
The tip here is easy: follow the Highway Code and use the left-hand lane when you are turning left or going straight on at a roundabout and the right-hand lane when you are turning right, unless the road markings indicate otherwise.
Drivers who cut into traffic queues at road-works, accidents, and on motorway exits to avoid queuing will risk a fine and penalty points too. Of course queuing is unpleasant, but it’s a necessary evil and it is what the British do best!
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Zipping is still allowed
‘Zipping’ (where two lanes merge; the idea is that each lane takes it in turn to go into the single lane, like the teeth on a zip) at road-works and lane closures is unaffected and is still the best way to deal with congestion at pinch points. This is, however, becoming frowned upon by other motorists, even though it's by far the most efficient way for queues to merge.
It’s up to you to judge how far to push it but unless you are deliberately evading a queue, you won’t be at risk of a fine from the police.
Other driving maneuvers that leave you at risk include handbrake turns and spinning your wheels needlessly when pulling away, driving too close to the vehicle in front, and failing to give way at a junction.
What should you do if you get pulled over for committing an offence?
As you can see, all of the offences that can now be dealt with by way of a fixed penalty fine are anti-social in nature, so few good drivers will object to the changes. But what should you do if you are pulled over by the police after (possibly inadvertently) committing one of them?
Pull over quickly and safely
The first thing is to pull over promptly, as soon as it is safe to do so.
Failure to do so straightaway will trigger thoughts of a car chase in the police officer’s mind, which isn’t a good place to put them when you want to reason with them later.
Be polite, be open, and be honest
While some solicitors tell you not to say anything when questioned by the police, you must understand that the police are there to do a job and most police officers will do so fairly and openly.
They don’t want to persecute you; they just want to educate you and send you safely on your way.
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Did you commit the offence?
If you did commit the offence, then opting to attend a driving course is the least painful outcome. You’ll come away from it having learned something and you should be a better and more considerate driver as a result.
If you are adamant you did nothing wrong, then say so. The police officer may well have a video camera in his car and he or she should be willing to show you the footage. If so, you probably did commit an offence, so your best bet is to follow the next tip.
If you committed the offence but didn’t do it deliberately, then the best option is probably to say so. The police officer might give you a lecture after showing you a video of your driving but humility and a willingness to admit to having made a mistake will go a long way to persuading him or her to keep their pen in their pocket and to deal with the situation informally!
If all else fails, you can challenge the matter in court. The police aren’t infallible and who knows, you might be right. But if you lose, then the fine will be much bigger...
Motoring offences and criminal records
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