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Responsibilities

Roads policy is largely a reserved matter in Great Britain so the information in this paper is relevant for England, Scotland and Wales unless otherwise stated. There are some statutory public bodies that can provide further information: 

Are the Government introducing harsher sentences for drivers who cause death?

Yes. In the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022, which received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, Section 86 of the Act:

  • increases the maximum penalty for causing death by dangerous driving from 14 years’ to life imprisonment; and
  • increases the maximum penalty for causing death by careless driving whilst under the influence of drink or drugs from 14 years’ to life imprisonment.

Section 87 of the Act also creates a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving.

These sections of the Act will come into force on 28 June 2022.

This legislative change followed a 2016 Government consultation on driving offences and penalties related to causing death or serious injury. The Government’s 2020 Sentencing White Paper recommitted the Government to bringing forward legislation for these proposals. Further background to these increased penalties can be found in the Commons Library Briefing paper on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill: Part 5 Road Traffic.

Can I drive while I wait for the DVLA to process a licence application?

In some cases, yes. Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 allows people to continue to drive even if they do not hold a current driving licence, when it is being processed by the DVLA. The DVLA leaflet ‘Can I drive while my application is with DVLA?’ explains the criteria when Section 88 can apply. In particular, the leaflet notes that:

To continue driving under Section 88, you must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Your doctor must have told you that you are fit to drive. If your doctor is unsure about how a medical condition affects driving, they should refer to ‘Assessing fitness to drive – a guide for medical professionals’ at gov.uk/dvla/fitnesstodrive
  • You have held a valid driving licence and only drive vehicles you have applied for on your current application and were entitled to drive on your previous licence.
  • If you hold a Group 2 (bus or lorry) licence, your entitlement has not been suspended, revoked or refused by a traffic commissioner.
  • You meet any conditions that were specified on your previous licence that still apply.
  • DVLA has received your correct and complete application within the last 12 months.
  • Your last licence was not revoked or refused for medical reasons.
  • You are not currently disqualified from driving by a court.
  • You were not disqualified as a high risk offender on or after 1 June 2013 (a high risk offender is a driver convicted of a serious drink driving offence).

Other topics addressed in this paper

This paper also answers FAQs on the following topics:

Road traffic and driving offences

Drink driving, the use of hand-held mobile devices, speed awareness courses, and motor insurance for vehicles that are not being used.

Driving and licensing

Satnavs and HGVs, driving with medical conditions, graduated driving licences for young and elderly drivers, and driving in the EU.

Further reading

You may also be interested in the Roads and Vehicle Regulations FAQs briefing paper, and and the Roads topical page on the Commons Library website.


Documents to download

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