Driving Offences You Didn't Know Were Illegal

Driving Offences You Didn
09 Nov 2019
By Ross Wild

Our latest blog explores an endless list of driving offences that you may or may not have known were actually illegal. You may consider yourself a goody-two-shoes when it comes to driving on the road; thinking that you do nothing wrong. Where you might actually be breaking the law on the daily! Check out the official Highway Code for rules and regulations on the road. 


Driving with snow on the roof

Similar to other offences, there is a loophole which could land you in trouble. Whilst it’s not classed as illegal to have snow on your roof because let's be honest, it’s unavoidable when it's snowing. The problem with having snow on the roof is that in some cases it can slide off and hit other cars windscreens causing them to crack, which could lead to a nasty accident. You could be charged with ‘driving without due care and attention' by the police.


Overtaking at a pedestrian crossway

If you’re coming towards any kind of pedestrian crossing, you should always make sure to check your speed and your surroundings to make way for those who are crossing. Something which is illegal and incredibly dangerous is if you were to decide to overtake a vehicle who is stopping or slowing down when approaching the crossing. Not only is this dangerous for the driver in front of you, but incredibly hazardous for anyone who may use the crossing with haste, as you could hit them and seriously injure somebody. Please make sure to always assess your surroundings and slow down when approaching a crossing. Highway code rule 167 states “Do not overtake where you might come into conflict with other road users. For example when approaching a school patrol or at a level crossing” and rule 191 - “you must not overtake the moving vehicle nearest the crossing or the vehicle nearing the crossing which has stopped to give way to pedestrians”.

Towing speeds

Towing in itself can be quite a daunting thing to do, most people would struggle to tow a broken-down car let alone a huge caravan; that's why drivers need to be extra careful on those lengthy holiday commutes. One thing towers need to remember is that different speed limits apply when towing, and these don’t appear on roads as normal signs do. The maximum speed that a car with a trailer can be driven is 60mph on motorways and dual carriageways, and 50mph on A-roads and all other kinds of roads; if you fail to oblige then you will be charged with a speeding offence.

Driving on the pavement unless you’re turning into a driveway

Driving on the pavement to skip out on traffic and cut corners can be incredibly unsafe and should only be done if you are turning into a driveway. Sometimes, when waiting for traffic lights to change where a left turn may be on green light and you are stuck behind traffic going forward, you may have seen some cars drive over the pavement a little to cut around and go forward, when really you should wait the extra minute or so and be extra careful. By going on the pavement not only are you breaking the law, but you are also putting pedestrians in danger and are also in the position of scratching or damaging your car by hitting the kerb. Rule 244 of the Highway Code states that you must not park fully or even partly on the pavement unless road signs permit it, and this goes for driving on the pavement as well. In London, it’s an offence to park on the pavement full stop, which could see drivers who do this, receive a fine.


(picture from Knutsford, Cheshire).

Here you can see that you can turn left at the lights, however, you would have to go onto the kerb to get around traffic waiting to go straight at the lights. You should simply wait the extra 30 seconds or so for traffic to move, then take a left turn.

Using the horn between 11.30 pm and 7 am in a built-up area

Believe it or not, using your horn could land you a meaty fine if used at the wrong times. The highway code states that drivers must not sound their horn aggressively while stationary on the road or when driving in a built-up area between 11.30 and 7 am. A horn, as you should know, is supposed to be used to warn people of danger or alert them of your presence if something disastrous could happen. This means that a horn should also not be used aggressively when drivers are agitated with one another, but we will get into this later.

Driving at more than 50mph in a van on a single carriageway road

If you didn’t know already, vans have different speed limits on particular roads to normal vehicles, and different again with trucks. It’s all dependant on the weight and size of the vehicle; as the bigger the vehicle is, the more dangerous it’s perceived to be.

Speed limits for vans -

30 mph - built-up areas

50 mph - Single carriageways

60 mph - Dual Carriageways

70 mph - Motorways

Eating or drinking whilst driving

Whilst it’s not exactly illegal to eat or drink whilst driving if an accident were to happen or you are spotted by traffic police and they believe that you are driving without ‘due care and attention’ you could be prosecuted. This could result in a £100 fine and three points on your license, as they believe that you are not in complete control of your vehicle. The only advice we can give is to always bear this in mind whilst driving and make sure you are in full control of the car at all times.

Splashing a pedestrian with rainwater

If you’ve ever done this to somebody then think again because it is a very selfish and irresponsible thing to do. Not only that, you can be punished with a whopping £5000 fine and 9 points on your license. If you were to do this within the first two years of driving and received this punishment, you would automatically lose your license as you are entitled to a maximum of six points in the first two years of driving. The Road Traffic Act of 1998 states “If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence”. Whether it’s deliberate or not, the person who is being splashed can be affected mentally as well as physically, so please consider pedestrians when driving in wet weather. If you would like to read more on this check out our blog Puddle Trouble.

Paying with your phone at a drive-through restaurant

Not long ago we conducted a study called Bump N Ride, which looked into the implications of paying with your phone at a fast-food drive-thru. Our study concluded that going for a McDonald’s drive-thru could cost you if you were to bump your vehicle and you could also be stung by the law if caught by the police; as at the end of the day you are on your phone whilst the engine is switched on. Although this would be a very harsh punishment and is unlikely to happen, there is no saying that it won’t. To be safe, make sure to turn off your engine when paying with your phone.

Driving in the middle lane of the motorway

One of the most common driving pet peeves is hatred for middle lane hoggers, and in all honesty, most drivers do it at some point. Those drivers who stick to the middle lane on the motorway so that traffic is having to both undertake and overtake and they just won’t budge. If you are one of those drivers, then we are sorry to call you out, but you are also breaking the law and it could also land you a £100 fine and three penalty points. Rule 264 of the Highway Code states: “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear”.

Sleeping whilst drunk in your car

If you end up being daft enough to have too many drinks out at the pub and think that you can just sleep in your car until you’re fine to drive in the morning then you are wrong. Not only will you most likely not be ok to drive in the morning, but this is in fact illegal. It is an offence under section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, and you will be charged similar to though as if you were drink driving; as you will be deemed to still be in charge of the motor vehicle even if you were to sleep in the back seats or even the boot.

Having a dirty number plate

Now we all know that when it comes to the weekend after a hard week of working, the last thing you want to do is get mucky cleaning your car (well for those of you who arent car enthusiasts anyway)… But it’s important to keep on top of it, as license plates which are hard to read could lead to a fine of up to £1000! Even if your car is incredibly dirty, you must ensure to keep both your front and back number plates clean and readable; this is so that your vehicle can be identified as and when is necessary.

Not clearing your windscreen before driving

Making sure that you clear your windscreen is incredibly important, and especially in the cold winter months when our cars are frozen up in the morning. Rule 229 states that “all of your windows need clearing, the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly”, failure to oblige could result in a £60 fine and 3 points on your license, due to how dangerous it can be if you cant see the roads and other traffic properly. Read our guide on how to defrost a windscreen here.

Undertaking

Undertaking Car

An undertaking is the action of a vehicle catching up and passing past on the inside of the other vehicle, and not only is it frowned upon, but it can also land you in trouble. Whilst it’s not actually directly illegal; if a driver is spotted by the police and perceived to be driving dangerously or without due care and attention, they could be approached and questioned.

Taking prescription drugs before driving

When prescribed drugs for medical conditions it is of mass importance to inform the DVLA as soon as you know, as it could impair your ability to drive. From there they will have a say on whether you are eligible to drive on your prescriptions or not, as certain medications can alter your reaction speed and coordination. Some of the examples of legal prescription drugs which you have to declare are the following: diazepam, lorazepam, methadone, morphine and temazepam. If you are thought to be drug driving and are caught doing so, you may face a fine, license ban and even time in prison as well as a criminal record. Not only are you putting your own life at risk, but others as well.

Crawling

Those drivers who are lackadaisical on the motorway and enjoy going at a slow-pace in the left-hand lane could see themselves being prosecuted by the law. You may think, “surely those cars who are speeding are more dangerous to other drivers”, but no it is, in fact, the opposite. The standard speed you should be travelling at on the motorway should be between 60-70mph, which will also allow other people around you to overtake safely, coming behind someone doing below that will cause you to have to brake which in-turn can be dangerous for other drivers. The only vehicles who should be going slower will tend to be vans and trucks which have capped speed limiters. If you feel unsafe going so fast on the motorway then be sure to take alternative routes.

Leaving a car parked with the engine running

If you find yourself parked on a high street and you just want to get out of the car for a stretch or to fetch something whilst leaving the engine running, or alternatively you are just sitting with the engine running, then you are in fact breaking the law. The highway code states ‘You MUST NOT leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road’. By disregarding this rule, you may end up with a fine of £20 issued by a traffic warden under the Road Traffic Vehicle Emissions Regulations of 2002.

Throwing something out of the window

A rule that goes without saying; throwing any kind of object out of the window whilst driving is dangerous for other drivers and is also littering at the same time. It has been found that drivers can be fined around £150 for littering out of the car, and it’s not unusual for other drivers to report it if it is seen. Research also found that it costs taxpayers a whopping £700million each year.

Phone usage

If you didn’t know already, driving whilst using your phone is completely illegal. Whether that's speaking to somebody on the phone, scrolling through music or texting whilst driving, you can’t do it! If you are caught, you can get 6 points on your license as well as a £200 fine, and if caught without the first two years of driving, then you will lose your license. Quite frankly being on your phone whilst driving is very dangerous as even a couple seconds looking away from the road could cause an accident as the distance travelled within those seconds is crazy.

Letting animals out of the car whilst on the hard shoulder

This goes without saying really. A hard shoulder is a narrow emergency lane on the motorway, which should only ever be used in desperate need or if it is necessary for cases such as breaking down. If you do happen to break down, you should stay in the car or get away from the motorway itself as it is very dangerous; if you happen to have pets with you, it would be incredibly dangerous to let them out of the car, as they could run into the motorway and die; causing a horrific accident. The highway code states that you should leave your pet in the car in the event that you break down and they should remain there unless it is unsafe to do so.

Related - Dog owners and driving law

Misusing the hard shoulder

The hard shoulder was put in place on the motorway as a narrow emergency lane if anything were to happen on the motorway, and should only ever be used as a last resort by all means necessary. You should only use the hard shoulder if your car has broken down if you're on a smart motorway and are instructed to do so, have been told by the police, or when there's a crisis. This means that you should not use it for any other reason. This is more relevant than ever with the introduction of smart motorways.

Using your mobile phone as a satnav without it being in a holder

Now, most of you must remember when the laws changed regarding the usage of mobile phones in cars; it completely blew up and in some cases caused outrage, however, rules are rules and when safety is involved, it is imperative you don’t do things which are dangerous. One aspect of this rule which upset people was for those who don’t have navigation features in their vehicle. People were unsure whether or not they could use their phone’s navigation whilst driving and thought the rule only applied for calling and messing around. The only way to use your phone legally is if it’s fitted to a holder similar to that of an external navigational device and is untouched.

Related - how accurate is your sat nav?

Car seats

One law which has been subject to change quite frequently in the past few years is regarding children and car seats. The UK government deems that a car seat must be installed in the car if a child is younger than 11 years old or smaller than 135cm/1.35m in height. However, you must install it properly and in the right place, as it's illegal to put a rear-facing baby seat in the front of the vehicle if there is an emergency airbag, due to how dangerous it is. Many parents tend to op for Isofix car seats these days so the seat is properly secured. Failure to comply with these rules may land the driver with a £100 fixed penalty notice, or potentially a visit to court with an even bigger fine.

Related - what are seats made of?

Going off-road

For those daredevils out there who love riding motorbikes in the dirt, beware, as you may not realise you are in fact breaking the law. According to Section 34 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, ‘It is illegal to drive or ride a mechanically propelled vehicle without lawful authority on common land, moorland or land not forming part of a road, or on any road which is a footpath, bridleway or restricted byway’. If caught by the police, riders may have their vehicles seized, face a fine or even face court dependant upon their insurance, driving licence and the land driven on. However there are a number of legal off-roading sites across the country, so be sure to do your research and avoid double-crossing the law.

Smoking

Smoking man in car

Smoking and driving is something which causes a lot of controversy as the laws on it are seen to be quite confusing. Some believe that smoking a cigarette whilst driving should be illegal because both hands aren’t on the wheel, and there have been cases where drivers have tried to flick the cigarette outside of the window and the wind has pushed it into the back of the car, where the driver then turns to see where it is and crashes. Although this is not illegal in itself, there is one aspect to smoking in the car which is illegal. You cannot smoke in a car with anybody under the age of 18, whether you are the driver or not.; Doing so can land you a fine of £50.

Not telling the DVLA about changes to your details

Whenever you make a change to your vehicle or have something that may affect your eligibility to drive, then you need to inform the DVLA. Simple things such as changing paint colours or on the contrary being prescribed medication, all need to be declared. For example, you can be fined up to £1000 if you fail to tell the DVLA about a medical condition which affects your driving. In terms of changes to the vehicle itself like a paint job, this needs to be declared as changes like so may make your vehicle unidentifiable to the police.

Flashing headlights to warn other drivers of speeding traps

If your kind enough to flash oncoming drivers to warn them of a speeding trap (an officer or machine with a speed gun) you may find yourself paying a lump sum of £1000 if caught by the police. Most people wouldn’t expect this, however, the Highway Code states that drivers should “Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there” and “Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users”. You could also be perceived to be obstructing the job of a police officer breaching section 89 of the Police Act of 1997.

Driving without glasses

For those of you who hate being caught wearing glasses in the car and are required to wear them on your license, you could land yourself in some unexpected trouble. The law requires you to have the ability to be able to see a number plate from 20 metres away and to also meet a standard on the Snellen scale. If you are required to and drive without glasses and are caught, you may receive a fine, be banned from the road or in serious cases where a catastrophe may happen, land time behind bars.

Driving without MOT

To drive legally on the roads, you need a full UK’s driver license, Insurance and a road-legal vehicle which has passed its MOT and isn’t due for another. Not having any of these things can land you in serious trouble, resulting in a potential fine, driving ban or court appearance. Some people believe that you can drive a car without MOT if you are going to have the car taken to the garage soon after its due date, but they are wrong. It is true in that the penalty for driving without MOT may not be as severe as driving without a license or insurance, however, a fine of up to £1000 may be issued.

Racing

Street racing is an illegal form of racing on public roads, where drivers tend to race amongst normal traffic, weaving in and out, speeding, causing noise pollution and posing a threat to pedestrians and other drivers. It's incredibly dangerous as other drivers will not expect it and speed limits are broken constantly. Sometimes organised street races are set, like you may have seen within the Fast and Furious franchise, and although it may look tempting, it's highly illegal. If caught, drivers may have their vehicles seized, licenses revoked and fines issued of up to £5000.

Making a profit from giving someone a lift

It is very common for drivers to ask for a little bit of fuel money here and there, especially when you first start out driving because fuel can be pretty expensive; however, there is actually a chance that it could cause a problem if caught. Interestingly, money to cover petrol costs isn’t illegal, however, if you were to charge over the odds from your friends you could be perceived to be an unlicensed taxi driver which could land you a fine of £2500 and potentially even cancellation of your insurance in extreme cases.

Swearing at other drivers

Now we’ve all seen the Ronnie Pickering video or at least have heard of it, and he is a prime example of road rage and what we shouldn’t do on the roads. For some drivers it's a common thing to get angry behind the wheel and rise to situations after a long day at work, where it may end up with beeping, flashing or ‘flicking the V’s’; which could actually result in a pretty hefty fine. At the end of the day, it is anti-social behaviour and taking people's eyes off the road could lead to an incident at the same time. So next time you think of taking your hand off of the wheel to swear, think again and crack on with driving safely.

Parking at night on the wrong side of the road

Road 248 of the Highway Code states that “You must not park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space” and that you must park the same way of the direction of traffic at night if you’re not in a parking space. By not complying with this rule, the driver can land themselves a fine between £1000 and £2500. I


t is deemed dangerous incase a car may be slightly pointing out into the road which could cause a collision and if light bounces off of the headlamps and shines in the driver’s eye, which in turn could cause the driver to be startled and drive dangerously.

Parking within 10 metres of a junction

The Highway Code (238-252) states that motorists should not park opposite or within 10 metres of a junction, except for in an authorised parking space. This is because it’s incredibly dangerous to park so close to a junction; it can cause traffic jams and collisions and puts most drivers in danger. You may be issued a ticket by an officer if they believe you are causing an obstruction.

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