It’s Not a Ban

7 September 2013

Whilst writing my previous post, it occurred to me that we have a language problem.

The phrase used to report the matter of a court disallowing someone to drive following a driving offence is usually “a driving ban”. I think this is fundamentally flawed.

You can be banned from entering certain premises. You can be banned from keeping pets. You can be banned from leaving the country. Broadly speaking, you can be banned from things which you have a (statutory or de facto) right to do.

Driving a motor vehicle is not such a thing. In order to drive, one must pass a test and obtain a licence. The license represents permission that is explicitly required. To drive is not a right, it is an earned privilege.

By saying that we are “banning someone from driving“, we imply that we are curtailing their rights. And by doing that we imply that driving is a right.

To disallow someone to drive is not to ban them. It is to disqualify them or, more accurately, to revoke their licence.

This is more than just semantics. This phrasing is every bit as culturally significant as the similarly pernicious phrase “road tax”; arguably much more so.

It’s time we stopped talking of bans, and started talking of revocation.


  1. Dave H (@BCCletts) 9 September 2013 8:00pm #

    That’s exactly the phrasing used by the Traffic Commissioners who have the power to revoke the licences of both vocational drivers (ie HGV and PCV) and operators of these vehicles, who must in addition to the VED disc, also have a licence to operate the specified vehicle commercially (a green disc displayed with the VED one.
    Do read the Commissioners’ Annual Reports, and note especially the thinking of the Commissioners for NE TAO, that they are not calling in many seriously bad drivers for interview and potential sanction, because they rely on an informal link to Police for reporting traffic offences.
    Please get TC’s to consider an automatic interview for any vocational driver involved in a fatal crash, and the possibility of an interim suspension of the HGV or PCV licence until that interview takes place

  2. Richard Burton 10 September 2013 8:14am #

    A very valid point, and not one I’d noticed before, and like many other uses of language about driving e.g. accident, designed to reduce the responsiblity of drivers for their behaviour.

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