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Construction & Uses Offences Glasgow & Scotland

Construction and use offences cover a large group of offences relating to the condition of a vehicle and whether it is safe. The list of conditions a vehicle is to be kept in is endless but includes things like having run down tires, having defective brakes, carrying too many passengers and even having illegal lighting. The range of penalties is also varied, with some offences being endorsable with penalty points and others not. Although this post aims to give a brief insight into the law on this area, if you require assistance it is important to contact an experienced road traffic lawyer.

AN OVERVIEW OF THE OFFENCES

  1. I. THE ROAD TRAFFIC ACT

The offences are covered under the Road Traffic Act 1988. This sets out the huge range of motoring offences, some of which carry penalty points and some which don’t. it doesn’t go into a huge amount of detail on how exactly each offence is committed but relies on the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations to set out the standards to maintain.

The first offence that is stated is that of using a vehicle in a dangerous condition. This includes using the vehicle yourself, as well as causing or allowing someone else to use it. It encapsulates things like the condition of the vehicle or any trailer; the purpose you’re using it for; the number of passengers; and the weight, position or distribution of its load.

Breaching one of the requirements as to construction, weight, equipment and use of a vehicle is the main focus of the Road Traffic Act. It breaks it down into smaller offences. For example, breaching requirements as to brakes, steering-gear and tyres; breaching requirements as to control of the vehicle (e.g. by being on a mobile phone); and breach of requirements as to weight.

To ensure that nothing is missed out, there is also a “catch all” offence. This makes it an offence to be in breach of any “other construction and use requirements”.

  1. II. THE REGULATIONS

If a vehicle has a defect that makes it potentially dangerous then you may be in breach of the law. The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 as mentioned above set out the construction and use requirements that are to be complied with. It mainly covers the design, manufacture, maintenance and use of vehicles and trailers. It covers problems such as defective tyres, faulty brakes or damaged windscreens. Breaching any of these requirements is a criminal offence.

Although there are too many to list them all, here is a brief overview of some of the requirements:

  • Brakes must comply with specific requirements and conditions;
  • Vehicles must comply with requirements regarding wheels, springs, tyres and tracks – including the diameter of wheels and tyre noise;
  • Steering gear must be maintained in a good, efficient working order and be properly adjusted;
  • The vehicle must be as such that there is clear vision for the driver. This includes requirements as to the windows and mirrors. For example, unless there is adequate view without looking through a windscreen, you must have one or more efficient automatic windscreen wiper capable of clearing the windscreen;
  • Obvious requirements as to seatbelts must be followed;
  • Every goods vehicle must be equipped with either an efficient braking system with two means of operation or two efficient braking systems having separate means of operation;
  • The laden weight of an unbraked trailer used on the road must not exceed its maximum gross weight;
  • Speed limiters must be sealed by an authorised sealer so that they cannot be tampered with;
  • Every motor vehicle must be fitted with an instrument capable of giving audible and sufficient warning of approach (i.e. a horn);
  • Every vehicle fitted with an internal combustion engine must be fitted with a silencer or similar device to reduce ‘as far as may be reasonable’ the noise caused by the exhaust;
  • And so on.
  • III. EXAMPLE: TYRES AND THE LAW

One of the most common construction and use offences is committed when a person doesn’t realise that their tyres are not up to standard. Firstly, your car must be fitted with the correct type and size of tyre for the vehicle type and the purpose it is being used for. If you are buying a car for general personal use, you are best checking with the person you bought it from if the tyres are satisfactory for that particular vehicle.

It is worth checking your tyres regularly to help avoid any consequences if you are caught driving with unsafe tyres. They must be correctly inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications at all times. This is because your braking and steering may be affected by over or under inflated tyres, causing danger to you and others around you. If you suspect you have a flat tyre you should get it checked as soon as reasonably possible. It is also worth checking your tyre pressure before long journeys, as once you set off, it may be difficult to stop. Note that when tyres are hot, they may give an inaccurate reading so do this before you travel any distance. If you have kerbed your car or hit a bump in the road, check your tyres for any defects. This will help you avoid the potential 3 penalty points and £2500 fine.

PENALTIES AND CONSEQUENCES

For some of the above offences, the Court is able to endorse penalty points but for others they cannot. In general, for each allegation you can receive a fine of up to £2500 and 3 penalty points. 3 points does not seem like an enormous punishment. However, imagine that you had 4 defective tyres. This would result in the endorsement of 12 penalty points which leads to automatic disqualification under the totting-up procedure. Of course, in most cases the defence is able to persuade the Court to impose only one set of points. (i.e. 3) However, the risk of disqualification is always there.

For many of these offences, the Police can offer a fixed penalty. This gives you the chance to pay a £100 fine and take 3 penalty points without going to Court. Otherwise, the penalties can vary. For example, for using a vehicle with defective brakes, you can get 3 penalty points and face discretionary disqualification. The maximum monetary punishment is a fine of up to £2500 or £5000 for heavy goods vehicle drivers and public service vehicle drivers. This is the same for using a vehicle with defective steering as well as for causing danger by reason of load or passengers (i.e. having too many people in a car).

Specialist legal advice is important to help you understand your charges and the possible consequences.

DEFENCES

Sometimes, the circumstances in which you were using the unsatisfactory vehicle can reduce your penalty or even let you off completely.

The Court is unable to impose any sentence if you can prove that you did not know, and had no reasonable cause to suspect, that you were breaching a construction and use requirement. If you don’t know about something, surely, it’s wrong to be prosecuted for it? This rule applies to all of the construction and use offences. It is particularly useful for protecting drivers who have been told by their employer that the vehicle is up to standards. In this instance, they are trusting their employer’s word, and so have no knowledge, and no reasonable cause to suspect that there is a fault.

In all endorsable cases, it may be possible to put forward what is called a ‘special reasons’ defence for not imposing penalty points. This means that there was a special circumstance surrounding the commission of the offence that makes the full penalty seem unfair. A common example of this is where there is an unforeseeable medical emergency that causes you to use your car, even though you might know that it isn’t fit for driving. It is important to note that the special reason must relate to the commission of the offence itself, and not something to do with the offender and their circumstances. This is a complicated defence and for this reason, seeking specialist legal advice is always recommended.

Conctact Our Construction & Uses Offences Lawyers 

The construction and use regulations cover a number of offences and can be extremely complicated. On top of this, some of them result in the endorsement of points on your licence as a penalty and some don’t. There are also multiple bodies who can be responsible for prosecution - including the Police as well as the DVSA for commercial vehicles. For this reason, it is always best to seek specialist help from someone who is familiar with the regulations and knows how to adapt them to your specific circumstances. Contact our road traffic team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

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