There's a broad range of driving offences, but they mainly fall under two categories: dangerous driving, and careless or inconsiderate driving.

Dangerous driving

The offence of dangerous driving is when driving falls far below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver, and includes behaviour that could potentially endanger yourself or other drivers. 

Examples of dangerous driving are:

  • speeding, racing, or driving aggressively
  • ignoring traffic lights, road signs or warnings from passengers
  • overtaking dangerously
  • driving under the influence of drink or drugs, including prescription drugs
  • driving when unfit, including having an injury, being unable to see clearly, not taking prescribed drugs, or being sleepy
  • knowing the vehicle has a dangerous fault or an unsafe load

Distractions are also causes of dangerous driving, for example:

  • using a hand-held phone or other equipment
  • reading, or looking at a map
  • talking to and looking at a passenger
  • lighting a cigarette, selecting music, tuning the radio

Penalties for causing death by dangerous driving

The penalties for causing death by dangerous driving are one to 14 years in prison, and a driving ban for a minimum of two years.

Careless or inconsiderate driving

The offence of driving without due care and attention (careless driving) is committed when your driving falls below the minimum standard expected of a competent and careful driver, and includes driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.

Some examples of careless or inconsiderate driving are:

  • overtaking on the inside
  • driving too close to another vehicle
  • driving through a red light by mistake
  • turning into the path of another vehicle
  • the driver being avoidably distracted by tuning the radio, lighting a cigarette etc
  • flashing lights to force other drivers to give way
  • misusing lanes to gain advantage over other drivers
  • unnecessarily staying in an overtaking lane
  • unnecessarily slow driving or braking
  • dazzling other drivers with un-dipped headlights

Penalties for causing death by careless driving

The penalties for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving are up to 5 years in prison, and a driving ban for a minimum of one year.

Driving under the influence

Driving whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs (legal and illegal) is a specific offence, but can also be considered as dangerous or careless driving.

Read more about alcohol and drug driving

Other offences

It's an offence to:

  • drive without a driving licence covering a vehicle of the class being driven
  • drive without insurance
  • drive without an MOT
  • drive while disqualified

Penalties for causing death by driving without documents

The penalties for causing death by driving whilst unlicensed, uninsured or disqualified are up to two years in prison, an unlimited fine, or both, and a driving ban for a minimum of one year.

Mobile use

Using a mobile phone or handheld device is a specific offence but also can be considered as dangerous or careless driving.

Penalties include points on your licence and a fine. You could lose your licence if you've passed your test in the last two years.

Read more about driving and mobile device use