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Road traffic offences and the self employed: Can you avoid a driving ban?

Road traffic offences and the self employed: Can you avoid a driving ban?

According to figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), 4.6 million people where registered self-employed in the UK in 2014. With self-employment being higher than any point over the last 40 years, the UK has had the 3rd largest percentage rise in the number of self-employed across the EU since 2009.

The most common sector where self-employment opportunities are available:

  • Business owners: sole traders, partnerships, limited companies, franchises
  • IT: consultant, trainer, programmer
  • Visual arts: graphic designer, illustrators, other designers
  • Health and exercise: dentist, counsellors, osteopath, sports therapists
  • Media and arts: film / video editors, performers
  • Business and law: accountants, barristers, management consultants

The downside of self-employment

Although independence is an attractive incentive to going down the self-employment route, it does require considerable hard work and discipline to achieve. Some of the other challenges to self-employment include the need for flexibility and mobility. Building the foundations of a successful business requires regular contact with clients, suppliers, outsourcers and partners.

The perception of risk and speeding

Despite a driver’s best efforts, speeding offences could easily be committed. The pressures of juggling work and personal commitments could lead to regular speeding offences being committed and the accumulation of penalty points.

Over 92,000 people were disqualified from driving between July 2013 – June 2014 in the UK (source: Institute of Advanced Motorists). Every day about 9 people will die and a further 78 will be seriously injured on our roads and excessive speed is a factor in a significant number of these accidents (source: Department for Transport).

Speeding offences could be committed for a variety of reasons

1. Not aware of the limits

43% of drivers were unable to successfully identify the national speed limit sign when shown (source: Think Road Safety Annual Survey 2008).

2. Not aware of local differences

Local councils can set their own speed limits in certain areas, and these must be clearly signed. A driver could easily and unknowingly commit a driving offence if they are in unknown territory.

3. Perception of risk

While risk taking is an admirable trait of entrepreneurs, it could affect road safety awareness by reducing the perception of risk when driving. In a 2008 Think Road Safety Annual Survey, only 33% of drivers completely agreed that it is dangerous to drive at 90mph on the motorway when there is no traffic.

This could also a factor in rural environment. Fewer drivers on the road could give a false sense of safety and security, thereby encouraging drivers to speed. Fatal accidents are four times as likely on rural “A” roads as urban “A” roads (source: http://think.direct.gov.uk/speed.html).

Penalty points and a driving ban

The penalty points system was developed out of the need to adopt a fair and flexible approach to driving offences. Under the system repeat and / or serious offenders would obtain a higher number of points and increase the likelihood of being banned from driving.

A few key points to be aware under the penalty points system:

  • The minimum number of points for minor road traffic offences is three;
  • A number of offences result in three points and other offences offer magistrates the scope to endorse a licence with between three to nine points.
  • Speeding offences dealt with by Fixed Penalty Notices lead to three points; however, serious speeding offences could result in an endorsement of up to six points.
  • Driving without due care could lead to between three and nine points depending on the circumstances.

Totting up and speeding offences

Regular speeding or other traffic offences will accumulate points (known as “totting up”) and could result in a driving ban. The courts must consider imposing a driving disqualification for the recommended mandatory period of six months, if a driver obtains 12 points in a three year period.

Certain offences – such as drink-driving or death by dangerous driving- result in an obligatory driving ban. However for other less serious offences, the courts have discretion.

Penalty points are valid for three years from the date of conviction, but cannot be removed from your licence until four years has passed.

Accepting fixed penalty notices

A driver can only accept “A Fixed Penalty Notice” if he or she has eight or fewer points on their licence. Drivers who have nine points on their licence should not accept the Fixed Penalty Notice (if it has been sent out in error by the Process Unit); instead they will receive a court summons / postal requisition. A totting up ban can only be applied by the Court.

Is it possible to avoid a driving ban?

Self-employment often requires a greater need for mobility throughout the day. Losing your licence would of course pose serious challenges to meeting clients and suppliers, delivering goods and services, and fulfilling family obligations.

With 12 points on a driving licence, a driving disqualification may not be inevitable. If the defendant can persuade the courts that a driving ban would lead to “exceptional hardship”, they could possibly avoid losing their licence. The submission of this argument to the courts (to avoid a ban or to be disqualified for fewer than six months) is also known as “mitigating circumstances”. The basis of this argument is:

  • The defendant must convince the court that there are mitigating circumstances to justify not disqualifying the driver;
  • The obligation is on the defendant to show that a driving disqualification should not be imposed;
  • The hardship experienced is not limited to the driver but could also include an innocent third party who depends on the driver.

Convincing the courts can be a complex matter as there is no specific legal definition of “exceptional hardship”.

Increasing the likelihood of a successful outcome

Appealing a driving disqualification can be a lengthy and complex process. The financial and employment consequences of losing your licence could significantly affect the next six (or more) months of your life. However, expert legal advice- especially early on- could significantly increase the likelihood of a positive outcome. Don’t let a driving ban affect your business or career. Contact IBB’s road traffic and speeding offences solicitors today to discuss your case. Call us on 03456 381 381 or 0330 999 4999 for immediate help. Alternatively, email us at roadtraffic@ibblaw.co.uk.