Penalty Points and bad driving habits

Blog post posted on 30/04/21 |

92,000 motorists are currently at risk of losing their licence as they are dangerously close to the 12-point ban threshold.

A recent Freedom of Information request to DVLA by IAM RoadSmart revealed everyday bad driving habits, ignorance or judgement errors are putting too many drivers on the threshold of a ban.

It’s never too late to re-educate yourself, refresh, introduce good driving habits and increase your awareness to become a better driver. We recommend you don’t wait until you’re ‘near the limit’ to change your behaviours as it could save lives. If you know someone in the danger zone you could share these tips or encourage them to take an Advanced Driving Course.

Being unaware or out of date, if your test was many moons ago, isn’t an excuse. Being knowledgeable could save lives so here are some tips from Richard Gladman, IAM RoadSmart’s Head of Driving and Riding Standards, to share and use.

Every driver needs to create or correct good habits. It’s never too late to start and share!

1. Vehicle Maintenance

Did you know that poor vehicle maintenance could land you with points? Defective tyres, blown headlight or brake light bulbs, cracked light covers, smeary windscreen wipers or worn suspension components are not only dangerous but could lead to points.

2. Speed Limits

“Better late than never”. Plan your journey and know the speed limit. If you’re in a rush and you don’t know the speed limit or how to identify it then you could get caught out. Bad planning could lead to an accumulating of unnecessary points on your licence. It’s important to keep an eye on your speedometer and always look out for speed limit signs, as they can change based on your surroundings. Staying at a slow, steady speed allows for more anticipation and helps you react to situations better.

3. How low is the limit?

“Slow and steady wins the race”. Obviously, it’s not a race but you do need to know about speed limits and remember the limit starts at the signs and continues to the next sign. Signs tend to be placed where you are concentrating on other matters, approach or exit to a roundabout at a junction etc – but remember overall it is a limit not a target. Sometimes the appropriate speed will be lower than the limit. We can’t choose which need to know and obey the current limits. Being out of date isn’t a defence. Just because a road used to be a certain limit and has been reduced usually means there is a very good reason for it. If in doubt 30 is a good place to start (there is not a 35mph speed limit) if unsure 30 or 40 go low.

4. Street Lights

What do street lights mean to you?  Do you know they are a good indicator for speed limits? Any road that has a series of street lights is classed as a 30mph zone unless there are signs saying otherwise, the lights may only be on one side of the road so don’t get caught out

The narrowing of gapping in street lights is an immediate signal the speed limit will drop. The closer spacing indicates you are coming into an area where your speed needs to reduce as limits are lower. Claiming that there was no sign won’t help as the Highway Code makes it your responsibility to know the rules.

In urban areas, watch out for signs too, as 30mph could also become a 20mph.

Dual carriageway, no streetlights, it’s going to be a 70mph zone unless otherwise signposted. Single carriageway, one-way, rural, but with street lighting  and no signs means it’s 30mph – don’t get caught out here! If you get caught it could mean points.

5. How can technology help?

What’s the difference between speed limiters and cruise control?

Cruise control is now a common feature in most new cars on the market. Did you know it can help you stick to the limits? It can make long journeys easier and take the stress out of driving, but do you know how to switch it on and off, set the speed, and which roads to use it on? You get to the desired speed and then press the ‘set’ button to stay or cruise at that speed, perfect for higher limits

Speed limiters are similar to cruise control as they both let you set a maximum speed that your car can’t go over. You still need to use the accelerator pedal to maintain your speed. Some cars let you manually set a speed limit. This can be useful in busy speed-limit zones so you can speed up and slow down with the flow of traffic without ever breaking the speed limit, best used in areas where changes in speed will be frequent

Each car can be different, so you need to know how to use it. You can’t blame technology for human errors yet!

6. Gear control

“How low can you go?” Did you know staying in a lower gear will help you control your speed? There are many benefits to selecting a lower gear early when descending a hill. Lower gears will slow you down quicker and allow you to benefit from engine braking. When going downhill, this can be beneficial for your brake pads as it reduces the strain, they are put under to keep your speed under control on a steep hill. The car will likely jolt if you move down too quickly through the gears And many automatic cars will not let you select a low gear until the speed is low.

7. Phone Distraction

Our phones are used for everything these days and many find it hard to navigate without them, but they are such a big distraction when driving. Ideally your phone should be put away out of sight and on silent make the glovebox your phone box when you drive. If calls need to be made, you should park up and switch the engine off before doing so. Failure to do some will dial up the penalty points on your licence and may leave you calling for a cab!

8. Parking and points

“Where do you draw the line?” Do you know the difference between double and single yellow lines? Can you ever park on zig zags? And when can you park in a permit area without a permit? While the most obvious place to park might be a parking bay, either in a car park or at the side of the road, how do you tell which ones are free, can be paid for or have other restrictions like residents only?

checking the signs for more information before leaving your car. While you might not get points, you could get a hefty fine and might even be towed away? Remember other obstruction offences are still controlled by the police and a dangerous position conviction will attract penalty points.

9. School crossing

You should always approach a school crossing with caution, in a low gear and speed, be prepared to stop and watch out for young cyclists, pedestrians and even uncontrolled children or objects like balls.  If a School Crossing Patrol is in the road displaying the 'STOP' sign, then stop a safe distance away from the crossing. Do

not proceed until the Patrol has gone back to the pavement.

You should always drive with caution near schools even if there is no crossing Patrol in operation or flashing signs there still could be children around outside the normal, expected time.  It is an offence if you don't stop when signalled to do so by a School Crossing Patrol. Failure to obey could result in penalties, a fine, and points.

10. Overloading the vehicle.

 What is the danger of overloading my vehicle? Whether it’s passengers or cargo it will not only cause damage to roads and to your vehicle but will also put your drivers and other road users at risk. It makes the vehicle less stable, difficult to steer and take longer to stop. Due to the excess weight consequences could be fatal. It puts massive strain on vehicle tyres and can cause the tyres to overheat and wear rapidly which increases the chance of premature, dangerous, and expensive failure (such as blow outs). Means insurance cover is void and could lead to penalty points.

Richard said: “While many of these might seem obvious, you’d be surprised by the damage some people can do if they are out of date, unaware or just in a rush and don’t check. You need to keep your vehicle in good health, consider planning journey’s carefully, leave enough time so you are not in a rush and be careful Lack of due care and attention can have devastating results, not just to your licence balance, but the road, other users, passengers etc.”