AVZ Blog (August 2022) Motoring offences –what happened at court in 2021: England and Wales

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Key points

At court in 2021 (England and Wales),

  • Motoring offences—both prosecutions and convictions – rose by 22% in 2021, faster than other types of crime.
  • Speed limit court prosecutions rose by 24% to 208,493. They account for the largest share of motoring offences prosecuted at court – despite most speeding offences being sanctioned out of court.
  • Careless driving court prosecutions increased by 62% to 15,785.
  • Sentences imposed were mainly fines (94%) with prison rare (1%), as were suspended sentences (1%) and community sentence (3%).
  • Driving bans for direct disqualifications jumped (31%).

Court prosecutions and convictions

The Ministry of Justice publishes data on court prosecutions, convictions and sentencing of motoring offences. In 2021, numbers of court prosecutions of motoring offences increased more than overall offences. But they have yet to recover to pre-Covid levels. Overall they were 5% lower than 2019.

Table 1 shows the number of prosecutions for causing death and serious injury by driving. Overall, there is a high conviction rate. But whilst Causing death by dangerous driving and Causing death by careless driving have similar numbers of prosecutions, the number of convictions for Causing death by careless driving is much larger than that of Causing death by dangerous driving, This indicates that drivers being prosecuted for Causing death by dangerous driving are instead being convicted of the lesser offence of Causing death by careless driving.

Table 1: Court prosecutions: Causing death/serious injury by driving, England and Wales

Causing death by dangerous driving222185190
Causing death by careless driving under influence of drink or drugs111216
Causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving190167191
Causing death by driving without due care / consideration while over prescribed limit – specified controlled drug8610
Causing death by driving unlicensed or uninsured drivers 13
Causing death by driving whilst disqualified312
Causing serious injury by dangerous driving355373366
Cause serious injury by driving whilst disqualified327

There are a greater number of  Causing death by driving prosecutions (412) than Causing serious injury by driving prosecution (373) (Serous injury is defined as requiring three nights hospitalisation—similar to Grievous Bodily Harm).

Other court only prosecutions

Table 2 shows the number of prosecutions for other key offences which can only be prosecuted at court. All increased in number last year. In the last two years, prosecutions for drug driving have almost doubled.

Table 2: Court prosecutions

Dangerous driving       3,850       3,780       3,944
Driving with alcohol in the blood above the prescribed limit     35,568     28,523     32,499
Drive a motor vehicle with the proportion of specified controlled drug above specified limit     12,163     13,736     21,211
Other offences related to drink or drug driving     11,402       9,424     13,446
Driving licence related offences     15,941     13,978     19,819

Other priority offences

Table 3 shows the number of prosecutions for offences which can also be sanctioned out of court. With speeding, careless driving and mobile phone offences, the vast majority are sanctioned out of court. Those prosecuted at court are where the offence was too serious to be sanctioned out of court (e.g. extreme speeding) or where the driver had a foreign driving license or was pleading not guilty.

Table 3: Court prosecutions

Speed limit offences200,513167,593208,493
Vehicle insurance offences159,371105,227107,583
Vehicle registration and excise licence offences104,18235,51555,204
Careless driving offences (excl. mobile phone offences)12,2769,76615,785
Using or causing others to use a handheld mobile phone whilst driving11,4024,8846,169


  • The most common outcome is a fine (74%).
  • Only 1% of motoring offence convictions result in a custodial sentence.
  • Another 1% receive a suspended sentence.
  •  A further 3% receive a community sentence.

Driving bans given for direct disqualification (not totting up) rose by 31%. See our separate analysis which shows where the increase occurred. It also highlights the rarity with which speeding and careless drivers are banned, as well as the variation between areas.

AVZ is committed to increasing the transparency and accurate understanding of traffic law enforcement and how the justice system responds to road crime. For more information on court prosecutions and total motoring offences, see our website.

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