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UK Driving laws: Nine common confusing rules of the road cleared up

It's easy to be puzzled by what is and isn't allowed while driving in 2021.

There are so many driving laws out there that it can be difficult to keep up with them all. 

The Highway Code is regularly updating its guidance on what is and isn't permitted and you need to be aware of them so you don't get caught out and hit with a penalty fine or points on your license.

Of course, you may be caught doing something illegal that you genuinely believed was acceptable, but there is no excuse for ignorance.

The good folks over at Confused.com put together a guide to help debunk the myths, and we're here to help you be more aware of these going forward.

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Throwing litter from your car

Not only is it illegal but it's so unnecessary and disrespectful to other road users and those that have to clean up after your mess.

Nobody wants rubbish in their car, we get it, but why can't you hold onto it until you get out of your vehicle and take it into your house or public bin to deposit?

Every year, 200,000 sacks of litter are removed from motorways and A roads, according to Highway England, costing the taxpayer over £850 million per year. 

So the irony is that you are essentially helping to pay towards the clean-up of your own rubbish.

In 2018, the government raised the maximum on the spot penalty from £80 to £150. 

Previously, it was difficult to catch culprits and so it was likely no action would be taken. But now the driver is responsible for everyone in their vehicle and will take the blame, even if a passenger commits the offence. 

Driving with a dirty number plate

You could be hit with a fine of £1,000 if your vehicle's number plate is missing, obscured, or displayed incorrectly, so keep it clean and secured in place.

It could also be a reason for your MOT to fail, so a lose-lose situation if you're not careful.

Using a phone while stationary

If you're in your car with the engine running, regardless if your vehicle is moving or not, you are committing an offence.

For example, if you're stuck in a traffic jam that's not moved for 10 minutes, or in the queue for your local fast food restaurant and waiting for the next car to move, you should not be using your phone.

You could be hit with six points and a £200 fine if caught.

Wearing a seatbelt

You may be surprised to know that there are actually a few circumstances where you can get away without wearing a seatbelt.

  1. When you're reversing.
  2. If you're in a police, fire, or rescue vehicle.
  3. If your car was built without seatbelts, no children under three are in the car, and children older than three are sat in the back.

However, if you are caught without a seatbelt on and the above rules do not apply to you, you could be fined up to £500. It is also incredibly dangerous, so please wear it to protect yourself.

Beeping your horn

You should only use your horn to alert other drivers to danger, or to warn them that you are there if they haven't seen you.

To use your horn in a road rage situation could land you with a £30 fine, rising to £1,000 if you ignore it and get taken to court.

Between the hours of 23:30 and 07:00, you should not be using your horn for any reason in a built-up area, according to the Highway Code

Flashing others to warn of speed traps

You should only flash your lights to other road users to let them know you are there.

It would be seen that you are trying to obstruct an officer in the course of their duties and comes with a maximum fine of £1,000.

Next time you're out and notice a speed trap and want to be a kind citizen and help others... don't.

Eating or drinking at the wheel

You are permitted to eat or drink at the wheel - provided it's not alcohol, of course, but, if you were to cause an accident or drive dangerously while doing so then you could face a penalty.

This again would come under driving with undue care and attention and could see you be met with three points and a £100 fine.

Splashing a pedestrian while driving

It seems to rain for 90% of the year in the UK, so avoiding puddles while out driving is nigh on impossible.

Whether you splash a pedestrian by accident or on purpose, you could be deemed as driving with undue care and attention and be dive-bombed with a £5,000 fine and up to nine points on your license.

As the Golden Rule goes, 'treat others as you want to be treated'.

Asking passengers for money

This is more serious than you may have realised and you could be fined up to £2,500 and lose your driving license.

If you are going on a journey with your mates and you ask them to chip in towards petrol money, that is perfectly legal.

However, if you're picking your mate up from a party and ask him for a fiver for the inconvenience, that would be seen as making a profit from driving and could seriously impact your insurance if caught, who would class that as 'hire and reward'.

It could also be recognised as taking business away from licensed taxi drivers and therefore 'operating a taxi without a license' on your behalf which would see you hit with the maximum penalty of your license being removed.

So be very careful next time you offer yourself out to help a friend.

And that concludes our myth-busting look at common driving laws that people are a little unsure about.

We appreciate there are a lot of grey areas, but just keep your wits about you next time you're out on the road and you'll be absolutely fine.

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