Is the pressure of the daily grind getting to Britain’s drivers? You don’t have to look hard to witness other motorists racing through speed camera locations.
And how many times have you heard a story from a friend or family member, concerning an accident involving an uninsured third party driver? Does it seem more common than in years gone by?
Perhaps you’ve seen the headlines about the rising numbers of drivers avoiding paying for road tax? You may have even predicted such a boom was likely when the paper tax disc was abandoned in 2014.
If any of this seems familiar, rest assured, you’re not imagining things. Motoring offences committed by drivers are increasing. More prosecutions are being brought by authorities. And greater numbers of convictions are being handed down by the courts.
Motoring offences: the big picture
The most recent set of figures on prosecutions for motoring offences shows an overall increase of 3 per cent, from 646,000 in 2015 to 667,000 in 2016.
Meanwhile, the number of offenders convicted and sentenced has increased by 5 per cent.
The largest rise in convictions
According to the Ministry of Justice, the largest increase in defendants prosecuted for motoring offences was seen in vehicle and excise licence (car tax) offences.
There was a 21 per cent jump in prosecutions, from 64,000 in 2015 to 77,000 in 2016.
It comes after the paper tax disc was abolished in 2014. At the time, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) switched from the traditional method of displaying a tax disc in a car’s windscreen to a digital database. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are responsible for enforcement. The DVLA claimed the move would save tax payers millions. At the time, some car industry observers warned that doing away with the tax disc might actually lose the DVLA money. It seems they were right.
Speeding: Britain’s drivers are in a hurry
The number of drivers prosecuted and convicted – 183,000 and 168,000 respectively – for speed limit offences is at its highest level for the past decade. More frequent use of average speed cameras may in part contribute to increased prosecutions.
Over the same period, 2016 saw the greatest number of drivers land themselves in hot water over failing to supply information as to driver identity when required, with 89,000 convictions.
MOT and safety test prosecutions
The motoring offences data suggests more drivers are feeling the pinch and cutting corners when running their car. The largest proportionate increase in convictions was in vehicle test offences. Enforcement around the MOT and roadside safety tests saw a 62 per cent increase in convictions, to 5000 drivers last year.
Is there any good news concerning motoring offences in the UK?
There are some positive long-term trends around motoring offences. Convictions for dangerous, careless and drunken driving have reduced. The figure has gone down from 284,000 in 2006 to 179,000 in 2016.
And convictions for unauthorised taking or theft of a motor vehicle have dropped. They fell from 11,000 to 6,000 over the same 10-year period.
A more modern trend is the use of mobile phones. There was a 27 per cent drop in convictions for using or causing others to use a mobile phone while driving. It fell from 18,000 in 2015 to 13,000 in 2016.
James is a motoring journalist and former magazine editor at BBC Top Gear and Auto Express. He has scooped, reported on and reviewed most new cars of the past 20 years, and currently contributes to the Driving section of The Sunday Times.