11 Driving Laws You May Not Know About
There’s a whole lawbook of driving regulations in the UK, put together rather like a jigsaw puzzle with many tiny pieces. Most of them are pretty sensible and self-explanatory, but some are a bit more obscure and less obvious. So much so, that you could easily be breaking the law without realising it, opening yourself up to a hefty fine and penalty points on your licence.
List of lesser-known driving laws
We’ve compiled a list of 11 interesting and little known driving laws and regulations. See how many you didn’t know were on the statute books.
Dirty number plates
Yes, it can be against driving laws to not wash your car. Well, to be more accurate, to not keep your number plates clean. As they identify you when you’re on the road, to police, speeding cameras and motorway ANPR cameras, it does make sense that they need to be legible. Unless you can prove you’ve just crossed a muddy field, you may face a minimum £100 fine, going up to a maximum of £1000 if you’re suspected of covering the plates deliberately for some nefarious reason.
Snow on the roof
Another less-obvious rule, until you see someone driving around with half of the Antarctic teetering on their roof. Actually, an inopportune snowfall from the roof over your windscreen at the wrong moment could be exceedingly dangerous. The fine for this wintry oversight could snow you under with a £60 fine and three penalty points.
Splashing a pedestrian
Sticking with the inclement weather theme. While it may be mildly amusing for some drivers to whizz through a big puddle and half-drown the people at the bus stop, it’s not a good idea on many levels. Not least because it’s very antisocial, but it can also leave you feeling very soggy yourself, with a fine ranging from £100 to £5000 for driving without due care and attention.
We all know about the laws on speeding, but did you know that being a tortoise could also land you in trouble? Driving consistently overly slowly and thus being a mobile roadblock for no good reason is classed as obstructing other road users.
If you’re caught doing it, you could just get a verbal warning. However, depending on the circumstances, you could be awarded a large fine and nine penalty points. If you’re a learner or passed your test less than 2 years ago, that’s a fast way to lose your shiny new licence – six points are enough to get it revoked.
Parking on the pavement
Every driver has parked partially on a pavement at some time, usually on narrow and busy streets. It doesn’t usually cause a problem, providing you don’t block the pathway completely or make it hard for people in wheelchairs or with prams. Unless you do it in London, that is.
In one of the busiest and most likely places to need to pavement-park, you can scoop a £70 fine for trying to keep out of other drivers’ way on the road.
Back to the car-cleaning and nasty weather for a minute. If your car is iced up or very dirty, make sure your windows and wing mirrors are sparkling clean at least. It’s against driving laws not to be able to see clearly out off all the windows – not just the windscreen and a patch on each side window – and the mirrors have to be clear too.
If you don’t comply, you may be seeing a demand for up to £2,500 in fines, three penalty points or even a possible driving ban.
Single yellow lines
Most drivers know that parking on double yellow lines is not a good idea, but the rules surrounding single yellows can be a bit less well-known. Often, there’s a sign nearby which gives parking restriction times on that stretch of road, but sometimes not. Outside of permitted parking times, single yellows are ok to pull up on, if safe, to drop off or pick up someone. If you do park outside of permitted ranges, you could find yourself with a £130 fine and even be charged with ‘illegal parking’ if your car is involved in an accident. The exception to this is Blue Badge holders, who can park on either type of lines for up to three hours, providing they display the badge and it’s safe to park there.
Sleeping it off
It’s ok to take a quick power nap in your car if you need to, on a long journey for instance, although do park somewhere safely first. However, don’t even think about sleeping off a heavy drinking session in there. Technically, even though you’re parked with the engine off, you’re still deemed to be drunk in charge of a motor vehicle.
That means you could be heavily fined and have 10 penalty points put on your licence, which would probably increase your insurance premiums substantially too. A sobering thought.
Making rude gestures
Gesticulating at the driver in front who’s just done something you deem silly is not a nice thing or a good idea legally. If caught doing it, you stand to be accused of possibly two breaches of the law – disorderly conduct and not being fully in control of your vehicle.
The first offence carries a potential penalty of up to 75% of your weekly earnings, up to a maximum £1000 pounds. The second merits a fine of £1000, or more if you drive a vehicle capable of carrying up to eight passengers. So, no matter what the other drivers are doing, make sure you keep control of those fingers.
Speed trap flashing
It could be seen as being a good citizen who’s trying to stop crime by warning other motorists to slow down but, actually, flashing oncoming drivers to warn them about the speed trap you’ve just passed is anything but. The Highway Code says you should only flash your lights to alert other motorists of your presence and not ‘to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.’
Added to that, you could also be in breach of the 1997 Police Act and be accused of wilful obstruction of the police in the execution of his or her duty, which carries a fine of up to £1000. In other words, you worry about your speed and let others worry about theirs.
Ok, most drivers know that it’s illegal to even touch a mobile phone while they’re driving. Did you know though that it’s also illegal to touch one while you’re supervising a learner driver? Exactly the same rules apply in either circumstance, as you’re responsible for the conduct of your learner and you need just as much concentration for that as you do for driving yourself – or possibly more.
The penalties are the same too – a £200 fine and six points on your licence – even though you weren’t driving.
There are a lot more seemingly-quirky and obscure driving laws in force – like the one which says you may have to inform DVLA if you have a Caesarean section and hold a driving licence; or the one which says you could be fined for paying for your fast food using your mobile phone. Yes, they really exist. Sadly, ignorance of the law is no defence – it’s up to the individual driver to make sure they know what they need to.
Some of these driving laws are pretty much technicalities and can be subject to the discretion of the law enforcer involved. Others are actually very sensible, but perhaps not very well publicised. In any event, it’s a good idea to make yourself aware of them so you don’t fall foul of the law, or risk invalidating your insurance if you have an accident. If you’d like to have a looks through the Road Traffic Act 1988, you’ll find a lot of helpful and quite interesting information.
Also, see our Road Safety Week post for information on other road safety matters.