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UK Driving laws: 20 common myths debunked

Driving laws are put in place to keep us all safe, though there are some that many people are unsure about.

There are so many driving laws in place to keep us safe on the road that it's sometimes difficult to know whether some of the more uncommon ones are actually regulations at all.

You've more than likely broken several rules yourself that you just genuinely had no idea about, or even the opposite, you've not been doing something because you've been told you'd be penalised for it.

It's difficult to keep up to date with the ever-growing list of dos and don'ts which is why we've compiled a list of 20 of the more common uncertainties and debunked whether or not you could actually get in trouble if you did them while driving.

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Throwing litter from your car

There's absolutely no need for you to throw litter when you can keep it in your car and pop it in a bin when you next get out.

You could be fined if you do so as it is considered fly-tipping which is illegal. Unfortunately, more often than not, it's at the discretion of the local council where the offence was committed to act upon it and many cases are missed.

Just don't do it, please.

Beeping your horn in rage

You should only use your horn to alert other drivers you are there or if you spot a dangerous situation that they perhaps have not. 

Road rage isn't a crime (within reason), nor is beeping the horn, but it could still land you a fine or points on your license if your actions are deemed to be 'driving without reasonable consideration for other road users'.

It's easy to beep your horn when annoyed, but unless it's absolutely necessary then we recommend going easy.

Using your phone when stationary

If you're stuck in a massive jam on the motorway and get your phone out to kill some time while your engine is still running, you would still be committing an offence and if caught, could be hit with a fine and points on your license.

Even though you're not moving, it could cause a distraction for you and potentially affect other road users around you.

Splashing pedestrians 

Although for you and others it might be funny, soaking a pedestrian - intentionally or not - is really not a laughing matter and can cause distress for the person you have splashed.

When it rains, it can be difficult to avoid the puddles that collect on the roads, but you should slow down and approach them with care.

If you are caught, you could see yourself facing a whopping £5,000 fine and up to nine points on your license. Try to be considerate to others around you.

Warning others of speed traps

You could be classed as ‘obstructing an officer in the course of their duties’ if you do which comes with a £1,000 penalty. 

Although you may think you are doing a good deed, it's actually unclear to other drivers why you might be shining your lights at them which could lead to them being dazzled or feeling intimidated which is not permitted.

You should only flash your headlights to let others know you are there. 

Eating and drinking

This is absolutely not an offence, you are entitled to eat and drink (non-alcoholic) while driving if you are confident and feel comfortable enough to do so.

When it could become a problem is if you are deemed to be ‘driving without due care and attention’. If that's the case then you could get a £100 fine and three points.

Due care and attention could include things like tailgating, middle-lane hogging and undertaking, amongst others.

Smoking

It's only illegal if you have children in the car with you. Like eating and drinking above, it could become an offence if it causes you to be distracted and cause problems for other road users, though.

Open alcohol

Contrary to belief, it's not illegal to have open alcohol in the car, so long as you are not drinking it and you are not over the drink-drive limit. 

Drink-drive limit

It's all very much dependent on the type of person you are and the metabolism you have, but as a general rule, one pint of lager or a small glass of wine should be your limit.

To be safe, avoid drinking alcohol at all if driving, or get a taxi or friend to pick you up. You risk so much getting behind the wheel while intoxicated and you could ruin multiple people's lives if something were to happen.

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Wearing a seatbelt

It is very much the law to wear a seatbelt in the car and has been for many years now. 

However, there are some circumstances where not wearing a seatbelt is permitted, including reversing, if you're an emergency service worker, or if your car wasn't built with seatbelts and you don't have a child under 3 in the car with you.

Light on in the car

It's not against the law to have a light on in the car but it can cause a distraction and make it more difficult for you to see the road ahead.

So best to keep the light switched off unless absolutely necessary.

Dirty number plate

You could be fined up to £1,000 if your number plate is obscured, missing, or displayed incorrectly.

It's not difficult to clean, so if you do notice it getting dirty, get it sorted right away to avoid you getting into trouble.

Wearing headphones

Driving with headphones isn't an offence, but you are putting yourself at increased risk by cancelling out the general noise of the road.

It could lead to you missing something or becoming distracted, in which case it would become an offence and you could be fined and hit with points.

Speed camera not flashing

If you are driving over the speed limit through a speed camera, then the chances are it's going to flash and you're going to end up with a letter requesting you pay a fine, as well as collect some points on your license. 

If for whatever reason it doesn't flash, it doesn't necessarily mean you haven't been caught; some cameras don't flash to ensure they don't dazzle drivers and just use an infra-red camera.

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Driving 10% over the limit

If you drive 41mph in a 40mph zone, you are speeding. The 10% rule is a myth and you should be cautious when driving. 

If caught, police may exercise a '10% + 2 leeway', but it is not the law and you could be in trouble if going anything over the maximum speed limit.

Asking passengers for money

If your friend asks you for a lift into town on a Friday evening and you charge them for the privilege, you are committing an offence and if caught - however unlikely that may be - you could be considered to be operating as a taxi without a license.

However, if you are taking a group of friends on a trip and you ask for everyone to split money for petrol, that is fine to do so.

Using a sat nav

It's fine to use a sat nav for journeys providing it's hands-free and doesn't cause any distractions. 

If you need to change anything while driving, you should pull over and then play around with the device.

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Moving for emergency vehicles

If you see an emergency vehicle coming up behind you and you pull over, committing a driving offence in the process, that offence will likely be upheld.

The reason is you are still at liberty to drive safely and within the rules, despite trying to do a good deed and assist the vehicle to get past you.

For example, you drive into a bus lane because an ambulance is behind you, you could be penalised as there would likely have been other places for you to pull over.

So just be very careful and continue to follow the rules of the road no matter what is behind you.

Driving without shoes

You can drive in whatever footwear you'd like - go barefoot if you want - but if it causes your driving to become unsafe then there will be a problem. 

You should always try to wear suitable shoes where you can, just to keep yourself and others safe.

Driving too slow

It can seriously impact other road users and could be incredibly dangerous for everyone around you.

You could be charged with dangerous driving if pulled over for it, so just keep to the speed limit.

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