Highways England clamp down on tailgating offences

25th September 2018 Criminal Defence

The ‘Space Invaders’ safety campaign has recently launched which aims to alert drivers about the risks of tailgating. Latest figures have shown that one in eight of all road casualties are caused by people who drive too closely to the person in front of them. Each year, tailgating causes death or serious injury to over 100 people. Whilst some tailgating offences are deliberate and aggressively motivated, the majority are caused unintentionally by drivers facing a lapse of concentration, unaware of how closely they are driving to the person in front of them.

Driving without reasonable consideration

The practice of tailgating can constitute the offence of driving without reasonable consideration. A person may be charged with this offence under section 3 Road Traffic Act 1988 if another person is inconvenienced by the manner of the defendant’s driving. Following the case of Dilks v Bowman-Shaw [1981] RTR 4 DC for a person to be convicted of the above offence, there must be evidence that the other road user was inconvenienced.

The maximum penalty for this offence is a level 5 fine, which for incidents committed after 13 March 2015, is unlimited. In addition, the court must endorse a person’s driving license with between 3 and 9 penalty points (unless there are special reasons not to do so) or impose disqualification for a fixed period. This shows that, for a practice that over one quarter of people admit to doing, the consequences of doing so are potentially very serious.

Careless driving

If tailgating results in a serious injury the CPS then have the option of charging an individual with the offence of driving without due care and attention (careless driving). To be convicted of this offence under section 3 RTA 1988 a person’s driving must fall below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver. If a collision occurs and there is no evidence of a mechanical defect, illness of the driver, or another explanation as to why the collision has happened, the CPS may decide that the charge of careless driving is appropriate. The penalty for careless driving is the same as that for driving without due care and attention.

Dangerous driving

The offence of dangerous driving goes beyond that of careless driving in that the person’s standard of driving must fall far below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious to a competent and careful driver that driving would be dangerous. If the tailgating is therefore viewed to fit the above definition, an individual may be charged with dangerous driving.

If the case is heard in the magistrates’ court a person may be awarded an unlimited fine and/or a 6 month custodial sentence. If heard in the Crown Court, the maximum penalty is an unlimited fine and/or 2 years’ imprisonment. Regardless of where the case is heard, the court must disqualify the driver for at least one year and order an extended retest. If the defendant can successfully argue that special reasons exist, the court may award the individual with 3 11 penalty points rather than ordering a disqualification.

Causing death by inconsiderate, careless or dangerous driving

If the tailgating results in the death of another person, a driver may be charged with death by inconsiderate, careless or dangerous driving. Which offence is charged will depend upon the standard of the defendant’s driving.

The maximum sentence for the offence of death by inconsiderate or careless driving is 5 years imprisonment with a mandatory minimum period of disqualification of twelve months (or 3 11 points where special reasons are found not to disqualify). Under the Criminal Justice Act 2003, the offence of causing death by dangerous driving carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment and/or an unlimited fine.

Whilst many would admit to having tailgated another car, either intentionally or unintentionally, the above demonstrates the serious nature of the practice. Given the number of injuries and deaths caused by tailgating and Highways England’s decision to clamp down on it, this is something that road users need to pay more attention to going forward.

There is clear overlap between the various offences outlined above, and as such it can be difficult for the CPS to decide what to charge an individual with. If you have been charged with a road traffic offence there may be argument that it would be more appropriate for you to be charged with an alternative offence, or even that the requirements of the offence have not been made out at all.

If you have been charged with one of the offences above as a result of tailgating and need some advice about how to proceed please do not hesitate to contact JMW’s experienced Motoring Offences Department on 0345 872 6666.


How will the courts decide how many points and what fine I should get?

When determining what sentence you should receive the court will follow the sentencing guidelines and consider the seriousness of your offence. For example, for careless driving a momentary lapse of concentration will attract a Band A fine (50% of your relevant weekly income) and 3 to 4 points. In contrast, a driver that overtakes at speed resulting in the collision of vehicles will attract a Band C fine (150% of relevant weekly income), 7 to 9 points, or disqualification. The court will then take into account any aggravating features, such as excessive speed and injury to others, and any mitigating factors, such as the inexperience of the driver and a sudden change in weather conditions.

What constitutes a special reasons?

If you are charged with one of the above offences, you may be able to argue that you should not be disqualified from driving on the basis that special reasons exist. If you are able to successfully argue that special reasons exist, the court may use its discretion to impose 3 to 11 penalty points or a shorter qualification than usually imposed. Special reasons relate to the offence itself rather than your personal circumstances. They include things such as shortness of distance travelled or travelling during an emergency situation.

Do I have to declare the conviction to my insurers?

If you have recently been convicted of a motoring offence, you may have to declare this to your insurers. Whilst it is not an automatic obligation, you should check the terms and conditions of your insurance policy to see whether this is a requirement. If you wish for a member of our team to review your insurance policy to check this, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

To talk to our motoring offence team please do not hesitate to use the contact form or call us 0345-872-6666.


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Sadie Thomson is a Solicitor located in Manchester in our Business Crime & Regulation department

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