What is the penalty for dangerous driving in the UK?

Dangerous driving in the UK carries several penalties – including possible jail time. So if you want to stay safe and keep your licence clean, it pays to understand what counts as dangerous driving, and how you can avoid it.

At the Insurance Factory, we have decades of experience in helping people with dangerous driving convictions legally get back on the roads. This includes arranging convicted learner driver insurance for those who’ve acquired a motoring conviction before they’ve even passed their tests.

So we’ve drawn up a list of some of the most frequent questions that people have about the complicated topic of dangerous driving, such as how it differs from the lesser offence of careless driving.
And we’ve set out some of the most common penalties you could incur if you’re convicted – including having your licence revoked if you gain six points or more within two years of passing your test.
Read on to find out more.

What is dangerous driving?

According to Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, dangerous driving is when the way somebody drives “falls far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver”. It must also be “obvious to a competent and careful driver” that this is the case.
Dangerous driving can cover not just driver behaviour, but also vehicle condition. So if you’re at the wheel of a vehicle that’s considered to be in a dangerous state, you could end up with a conviction.
In all cases, the Act defines “dangerous” as posing a risk of injury to a person or serious damage to property. And it’s important to note that you don’t have to actually cause damage or injury to be convicted of dangerous driving – it’s all about the potential risk your motoring behaviour presents.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) lists the following as examples of dangerous driving:
  • Racing or driving aggressively
  • Ignoring traffic lights or road signs
  • Overtaking in a dangerous manner
  • Driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs, including prescription medication
  • Driving while unfit, for example when injured or ill, or without being able to see clearly
  • Being distracted, for example by a mobile phone, reading a map, talking to a passenger, or lighting a cigarette.
Those are just some of the many driving behaviours that can land you in serious trouble with the law.
If you spot another motorist behaving in a risky way, you can help keep the roads safer for all users by reporting them for dangerous driving – our blog explains how. It covers everything from what information you should provide police, to what action they might take.
If you’re the one caught driving dangerously, you face hefty penalties – we’ll cover these below. And you might be surprised to learn that you can be convicted of a driving offence before you’ve even passed your test.
If this happens to you, it doesn’t have to mean that your driving days are over for good before they’ve even got into gear. Contact the specialists at the Insurance Factory to arrange convicted learner driver insurance, and get back on the roads safely as soon as you are able.

What is driving without due care and attention?

Section 3 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states: “A person is to be regarded as driving without due care and attention if (and only if) the way he drives falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver.”
In everyday language, this offence is also called “careless driving”.
As you can see, the wording of this law is very similar to that for dangerous driving. The key difference is simply that dangerous driving is defined as “falling far below” expectations, whereas careless driving is just “falling below”.
So what does that mean in practice? The CPS lists some examples of motoring behaviours that could be classified as careless driving, including the following:
  • Undertaking – overtaking a vehicle on the inside lane.
  • Driving too close to another vehicle.
  • Cutting up another driver – turning into their path.
  • Being unnecessarily distracted, for example by changing CDs, or eating a snack.
  • Trying to force other road users to give way by flashing lights.
  • Lane-hogging – staying in a lane that’s meant for overtaking, rather than moving to the left-hand lane.
  • Driving unnecessarily slowly.
  • Driving through a red traffic light by mistake.
  • Dazzling other road users by failing to dip your headlights.
There are some more examples in our recent blog on anti-social use of a vehicle.
Sadly, you probably see examples of careless driving on the roads every day – but that doesn’t mean you should follow suit!
As a learner driver, it’s easy to pick up bad habits by copying the behaviour of others, but that could land you in trouble. You might end up with a motoring conviction before you’ve even passed your test, and need to take out convicted learner driver insurance.
So pay attention to your driving instructor, not your mates, when it comes to motoring!

What is careless driving, and how does it differ from dangerous driving?

As mentioned above, careless driving is simply the term that’s usually used for the offence of driving without due care and attention. Another term is “inconsiderate driving”.
You might have noticed that there are some actions that can be considered either dangerous or careless – it’s not always cut and dried. It all depends on the context, and how far short of expectations a particular action falls.
You’re more likely to be charged with dangerous driving if your actions are intentional or aggressive rather than simply mistaken or inattentive.
And take note: even though careless driving is a lesser offence, the penalties can still be serious. Plus, some insurance providers might refuse to cover you, while others will charge far higher premiums.
Our insurance specialists have years of expertise in arranging convicted learner driver insurance, and will be happy to search our panel of trusted providers to find a suitable policy to help you get back safely in the driver’s seat.
Still confused? Then check out our recent blog about the difference between careless and dangerous driving.

What are the penalties for dangerous driving?

If you’re charged with dangerous driving, you’ll be taken to court. We don’t have space to cover this in detail here, but we’ve got a great blog that takes you through the entire process, from receiving a court summons to whether you’ll get a criminal record.
So if you’re convicted, what dangerous driving penalty might you receive? It varies depending on the severity of the offence, and whether this is your first conviction, but the following guidelines apply for the offence of dangerous driving (endorsement code DD40):
  • Obligatory disqualification from driving.
  • In exceptional circumstances, you will not be disqualified, but will instead be given penalty points on your driving record: minimum three, maximum 11. These remain on your licence for four years from the date of the offence.
  • A possible unlimited fine.
  • A possible prison sentence of up to two years.
If you’re banned from driving for more than 56 days, you will have to apply for a new licence before you’re allowed to drive again.
The court might also order you to retake your driving test or even take an extended test. If so, you’ll need to apply for a provisional licence first.
In any case, you face another serious hurdle before you can get back behind the wheel: finding suitable insurance cover. Many insurance providers will reject applications from people with driving convictions.
At the Insurance Factory, we know how hard it can be for convicted drivers who want a second chance, and we are ready to help. Just get in touch to find out how we arrange policies, including convicted learner driver insurance, through our panel of trusted providers.
If you’re worried about how your motoring mistake could affect your job, take a look at our blog about talking to your employer about your driving conviction.

What are the worst penalties?

There are several other offences that fall under the broader category of dangerous driving, each with its own ‘DD’ code. Here are two of the most serious, which carry more severe penalties than dangerous driving on its own:
  • DD80: Causing death by dangerous driving.

    Obligatory disqualification for a minimum of five years, a possible unlimited fine, and a possible jail term (maximum life imprisonment). In exceptional circumstances, you won’t be disqualified, but will instead receive between three and 11 penalty points.
  • DD10: Causing serious injury by dangerous driving

    Obligatory disqualification of two years, and a possible prison sentence of up to five years. If, for some exceptional reason, you are not disqualified, you will instead receive between three and 11 penalty points.
Other less common charges you could face include “furious driving” (endorsement code DD90) and “manslaughter or culpable homicide while driving a vehicle” (endorsement code DD80).
In all the above cases, any penalty points you acquire will stay on your driving record for four years from the date of the offence.
If you’re convicted of dangerous driving or a related offence, it’s a serious blot on your driving record and you’ll probably be very worried about what it means for your future.
We can help by arranging specialist convicted learner driver insurance. We have extensive experience of helping people with convictions including DD10, DD40, DD90 and DD80 offences.
If you need more information about penalties, convictions, drink-driving and other related topics, take a look at our recent blog on sources of support for convicted drivers.

What are the penalties for careless driving?

For driving without due care and attention – endorsement code CD10 – the court can impose:
  • An unlimited fine.
  • Discretionary disqualification.
  • Between three and nine penalty points.
These points will stay on your licence for four years from the date of the offence.
A related, more serious, offence is causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs (CD40). As you can imagine, the penalty can be severe, and varies according to aggravating and mitigating factors.
It could include:
  • An unlimited fine.
  • A jail sentence – maximum life imprisonment.
  • Obligatory disqualification for a minimum of five years.
  • If exceptionally not disqualified, then between three and 11 penalty points.
For a CD40 offence, the points will stay on your licence for 11 years from the date of the conviction.
There are various other careless driving offences, all of which will have an impact on your ability to get insurance cover in the future.
If this applies to you, do give us a call – we can arrange policies to suit you from a range of providers.

What are the penalties for learners?

No driver wants a conviction for dangerous or careless driving. But for learner drivers and those who have recently passed their tests, it’s even worse news.
If you get penalty points on your provisional driver’s licence, it’s a very demoralising start to your driving career. If they haven’t expired before you pass your test, they’ll be carried over to your full driving licence – there’s no escaping them!
Worse still, while experienced drivers will face automatic disqualification if they accrue 12 or more points, for new drivers, it’s half that. So if you’re handed six points for your driving misdemeanours within two years of passing your test, you’ll have your licence revoked.
While more experienced drivers are often allowed to drive after a ban expires without retaking their test, that’s not the case for those who’ve held their licence for less than two years.
You’ll have to reapply and pay for a provisional licence, then retake both your theory and your practical tests.
Plus, of course, you’ll have to find convicted learner driver insurance to keep you covered while you go through the process of regaining your licence. Costs can be high, but at the Insurance Factory, we’ll search for policies to suit your needs and your budget.
Still, it’s always best to stay out of trouble in the first place! You can find out ways to avoid incurring any penalties by following our 21 tips for learner drivers.
We’re confident our tips could save you a lot of bother – and cash – in the long run!

Why are penalties worse for learners and new drivers?

At first, it does seem pretty unfair that the same poor driving actions can merit different penalties depending on how long you’ve had your licence. But there is a clear rationale behind it.
According to road safety charity Brake, new drivers have a far higher accident rate than those who’ve had their licence for some time.
Around one in five drivers has an accident in the first year of passing their test, and tragically, more than 1,500 young drivers are killed on the UK’s road every year. This increased risk is largely down to a combination of youth and inexperience.
Young drivers are more prone to risk-taking behaviours, for example speeding or driving under the influence of drink or drugs. They’re also more susceptible to peer pressure, such as showing off how fast their new motor can accelerate.
And whereas more experienced motorists know how to adapt their driving style to poor conditions such as reduced visibility or wet weather, new drivers might not do so. Plus, less experienced drivers are likely to have fewer advanced motoring skills, which enable drivers to see risky situations emerging and take evasive action before it’s too late.
So new drivers have a ‘probation period’ of two years, to encourage them to develop safe driving habits. If they don’t, they’ll accumulate points, lose their licence, and have to retake their driving tests.
On top of that, they’ll have to find specialist convicted learner driver insurance to keep them covered on the roads while they learn.
If this happens to you, contact us for help in arranging your policy. We won’t judge you: we understand that people make mistakes, and we want to give you another chance to prove that you’re safe on the roads.

How can I avoid a careless or dangerous driving conviction?

At the Insurance Factory, we’ve been in the business of arranging policies for convicted drivers for more than 20 years. We know how easy it is for motorists to make just one careless or stupid mistake – and end up causing a serious accident.
So we’ve put together 11 top tips that we hope will help you drive sensibly, and avoid a motoring conviction.
1. Invest in car safety tech. There are also sorts of driving assistance features that can help you avoid becoming a careless or inconsiderate driver, such as Lane Keep Assist, Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA), alertness sensors, and blind spot sensors. Read our recent blog on car safety features to help you choose.
2. Put your mobile phone away so you’re not distracted while driving – otherwise, you face a £200 fine and six penalty points. If you passed your test less than two years previously, that would mean your licence would be revoked, and you might need convicted learner driver insurance to get back on the road.
3. Take care with longer journeys: you’re more likely to find your attention wandering, or start making risky manoeuvres. Factor in plenty of breaks to stretch your legs and get a breath of fresh air.
4. If you’re a new driver, consider boosting your experience with a Pass Plus course: it takes just six hours, and builds on the basic driving skills you learned to pass your test. It’s a great way to increase your confidence and safety on the roads.
5. Make sure your visibility is good and your mirrors are correctly positioned, so you can avoid driving into the path of other road users by accident. Read our blog on blind spots for details.
6. Don’t drink and drive, and don’t take illegal drugs if you’re getting behind the wheel. And read the warnings on any prescription drugs: some make you drowsy or otherwise incapable of driving.
7. Beware of road rage. If you know you’re prone to getting hot under the collar due to other people’s driving, read our road rage blog to help you stay calm and avoid a conviction for dangerous driving.
8. If you’re a young driver, take care when driving at night or carrying passengers your own age. According to the road safety charity Brake, these are known risk factors for your age group.
9. Make sure you keep within the speed limit and buckle up – two things younger drivers are less likely to do, according to Brake.
10. Consider taking out telematics, or black box insurance: it’s a device that fits in your car and monitors your driving. It’s a great way to learn how you can improve your driving behaviour and get rewarded with discounted premiums.
11. Make sure you’re up to date with all the changes to the Highway Code that have been introduced in 2022 – even if you’re a relatively new driver. Changes include a hierarchy of road users, and new regulations around how much space you need to give cyclists and pedestrians.

Get a quote from the Insurance Factory today

We’re keen to help you if you’ve fallen foul of the laws on dangerous or careless driving.
We’ll always treat you as an individual, and will never judge you for your conviction. Instead, we will simply search our trusted panel of insurance providers to find policies that will get you back on the road, including convicted learner driver insurance cover.
We have over 20 years’ experience, and can offer flexible payment solutions, such as spreading the cost of your cover by paying in monthly instalments.
No matter what your conviction or your circumstances, we want to help. Contact us today for a quote.