Many of us take our driving licence for granted. For some of us it is vital to the way we do business. In short we would be lost without it. But what if we are risking this vital element of our everyday lives based on a simple misunderstanding of the law? Motoring law is one of the most complex areas of law and one which motorists frequently get wrong.

With this in mind here are some of the most frequently asked questions, and important points to note regarding motoring law.

How many penalty points can I receive before I am disqualified?_

Should a driver receive 12 penalty points on their licence within a three year period an automatic ban of 6 months disqualification will be imposed.

Can I avoid a driving ban if I have 12 penalty points?_

For certain motoring offences a period of disqualification is mandatory. As far as penalty points are concerned, if you have accumulated 12 penalty points you would ordinarily be disqualified for a period of 6 months. However, if you are able to demonstrate exceptional hardship then a disqualification can be avoided (or at least reduced). There is no legal definition as to what ‘exceptional hardship’ is and therefore it will vary from case to case. A driver must show that a disqualification from driving would result in hardship for the driver or those connected to them that is far beyond simply not being able to drive. An example of this would be the loss of ones business.

I have received a Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP). Do I have to fill it in?_

A Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP) is a document sent to the registered keeper of a vehicle after it (the vehicle) has been involved in an alleged offence. It requires the keeper of the vehicle to identify who was driving the vehicle at the time of the offence described in the notice. You must supply this information within 28 days. If you do not you commit an offence regardless of whether you were actually driving at the time of the offence. This offence carries 6 penalty points and a fine of up to £1000.

How long do penalty points stay on my licence for?_

Penalty points are valid or ‘active’ for three years from the date that they were imposed but cannot be removed from a licence until their fourth anniversary.

I am a new driver. Do the same rules apply to me?_

New drivers are those motorists who have passed their test within the last two years. Slightly different rules apply to new drivers. If a new driver amasses 6 penalty points within two years of passing his or her test then the driver will have their licence revoked and be forced to pass their driving test again. If the driver amasses 12 penalty points then the driver will be disqualified.

I have been asked to provide a specimen of breath at the roadside but I wasn’t driving. Should I comply?_

This is a common mistake made by a lot of motorists. In order for a police officer to require a specimen of breath from a motorist they need only show that they have reasonable suspicion that the person was driving, regardless of whether that person was actually driving. Failure to provide a specimen of breath at the roadside could lead to arrest and a disqualification of up to 18 months.

I’ve just been flashed by a speed camera. When will I know if I am to receive a ticket?_

The police have 14 days to serve the registered keeper of the vehicle with a Notice of Intended Prosecution which sets out details of the offence.

What are Speed Awareness Courses?_

Speed Awareness Courses are offered by some police forces in lieu of penalty points. It is at the discretion of the issuing force to decide who is offered a speed awareness course. It is only generally offered to motorists caught slightly over the speed limit although there are no set guidelines for who is offered the course. A motorist offered this course will have to pay a fee to attend, however they will avoid any penalty points on their licence.

Motoring law can be a minefield of do’s and don’ts and it can be all too easy to risk losing your licence based on a simple misunderstanding of law or procedure. When in doubt seek expert advice.

Further expert advice and information is available from Beswicks Motoring offences team – contact Andrew Turnock on 01782 205000 or andrew.turnock@beswicks.com