In the news lately, there has been a great deal of coverage surrounding mobile phone use at the wheel. Although illegal, many motorists are still opting to use their hand-held devices whilst driving, despite the damaging implications this could have. It has now been proposed that the punishment for being caught with a mobile whilst in the driver’s seat is set to rise, with offenders receiving tougher penalties and larger fines. Although many still have a seemingly brazen attitude towards this illegal act, despite the implications it can have, there are some more common habits that many motorists are guilty of that could also potentially land you in a great deal of trouble too.
Remember, in the eyes of the law, ignorance is no defence, so it’s best to clue yourself up on these motoring illegalities, before you find yourself in trouble.
- Driving whilst on prescription drugs
It probably goes without saying that driving under the influence of drugs and hallucinogens are completely unlawful. But, we bet you didn’t know that your over-the-counter prescription drugs could lead you onto the wrong side of the law too. Some household medications come with cautionary notes suggesting that the drug could cause the user to feel drowsy and thus affect their ability to drive or operate heavy machinery. In this case, getting behind the wheel is strongly advised against and ignoring such caution could lead to a one year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to six months in prison, and a criminal record. Always remember to read the advisory leaflet that comes alongside your medication, to keep you from having a run in with the law.
- Using phone whilst supervising learner driver
Now, we know that the law dictates against drivers using handheld devices behind the wheel, but did you know this rule also applies to driving instructors too? Anyone supervising a learner driver is considered to be in primary control of the vehicle and thus is required to give the roads their full attention. Being caught on a phone in these circumstances could lead to fines of up to £300, and up to 6 points on the supervisor’s licence. Subsequently, any driving related convictions and charges could further lead to loss of work for offenders who instruct for a living. Quite like the laws regarding drivers using their mobiles, this law does come with one exception; this illegality is only considered acceptable if the driver/instructor needs to call 999 and is not able to pull over in safe place.
- Using your horn
When you find yourself driving behind a slow motorist, it may be tempting to sound your horn by way of prompting the driver to speed up. Not only is this considered aggressive driving – it is also punishable. Actually, the rules regarding horn use are considerably refined.
Whilst in a moving vehicle, the horn should only be sounded if you need to warn other road users of your presence, such as on a blind bend. The horn should not be sounded whilst the car is stationary on the roads, or when driving in a built up area between 11.30pm and 7.00am except for extenuating circumstances, such as another road user posing a danger. Doing so could lead to a fixed penalty notice and a fine.
In more severe cases, the council may choose to take action, and charge a horn offender under the noise pollution law. If this is the case, hefty fines may be issued with up to £5000 being fined on domestic land, or up to £20,000 on commercial premises. Given this, it’s probably better to resist the temptation!
- Having a dirty number plate
We know how it can get in winter. Over the summer months, you spend hours on end, preening and presenting your motor so that it gleams in the summer sun. When it comes to winter, however, the misery and chill can make this process a little more tedious. Nobody likes having to stand out in the cold and rain; so sometimes, the car washing, waxing and cleaning process can occur very few and far between. However, such understandable neglect could see you being penalised if it affects the visibility of your number plate.
According to legislation, your number plate must be readable at all times and not covered in dirt. Failing this, you could end up with up to a £1000 fine. It is also a requirement that the number plate is fixed to the vehicle; is of the correct size, colour, font and spacing; and follows the British standard including the trademark of the plate supplier.
- Driving too slowly
With all the extensive laws regarding driving currently in place, it may be tempting to err on the edge of caution and drive a little more guardedly. However, where your intentions may be good, in this scenario, such excessive consideration could actually land you in a spot of bother. Not only is driving too slowly likely to wind up fellow road users, which could subsequently encourage potentially dangerous aggressive driving on their behalf, it could also land you with three to nine points on your licence and a potential disqualification. Why? Because holding up traffic can be considered to be driving without reasonable consideration for other road users. So, if you find yourself with a queue building up behind you, and you’re not yet at the speed limit, it may be worth speeding up a little, to avoid such punishment.
- Driving with fog lights on
Of course, this only refers to situations when it is not foggy. Sometimes, you may see other road users with their fog lights on during clear conditions – it seems it may have become a bit of a cool trend to keep them on. However, the Highway Code dictates that this is in fact not allowed. Headlights and fog lights may only be used when visibility is seriously reduced, and you generally can’t see for more than 100 meters. Should you regain a clear vision field, it is important you turn your lights off immediately. Failing to do so could dazzle other road users which could lead to further problems or fatalities, which certainly isn’t cool.
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
It can sometimes be a really easy mistake to make, driving the wrong way down a one-way street. Sometimes, the no-entry sign just isn’t clear enough and you find yourself driving in the opposite direction to parked up vehicles. You may think that this simple mistake is forgivable; that you could just do a quick turn-in-the-road and you’ll be fine; but actually, should you be caught by an officer, you could face a penalty or charge for driving without due care or attention. Be sure to stay extra attentive to road markings and signs to dodge such penalisation.
- Not clearing snow off the car roof
In the height of winter, when snow is all around, the last thing you want to do is stand out in the cold for longer than necessary. When it comes to setting out on a journey, you may be tempted to try and get away with just giving a section of your windscreen a quick scrape to remove any ice and condensation from your direct eyeshot. However, such a botched job could lead you into trouble with the police.
Not only are you required to completely clear all of your windows of snow and ice, but it is also imperative you remove any snow from your roof and bonnet too. Snow on the roof could slip forward onto your windscreen and obstruct your vision of the road, which could be incredibly dangerous. Not only this, but the falling snow could also cause problems for other road users too.
Anything that can fall from your car is considered a hazard which could lead to a £60 fine and three penalty points – in more serious cases, you can be charged with offences of careless or inconsiderate driving. So, it’s probably worth spending a few more minutes scraping in the morning, and investing in a good de-icer and scraper
- Driving with hazard lights on
Based on the rules dictated in the Highway Code, hazard lights should only be switched on:
- To warn others that your stationary vehicle may temporarily obstruct traffic
- Whilst on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead
In both cases, it is recommended that motorists switch off the hazard lights once they have been observed by other motorists.
However, it is becoming increasingly common for road users to opt for hazard lights in other circumstances too. In many cases, motorists are using their hazard lights whilst parked in a place they shouldn’t be, under the assumption that the hazard lights will subsidise their illegal parking. Of course, this is not the case, and will be penalised. Not only that, though; aside from the aforementioned circumstances, driving with hazard lights on can cause confusion amongst other drivers and pedestrians, which could lead to potential hazards and conflicts, and thus is worthy of a penalty.
Avoid the risk of your motor becoming a hazard to other road users by keeping up to date with your car services and MOTs. Remember, there are over 2,100 Trust My Garage members around the country, all qualified and willing to conduct these necessary checks. Be sure to find your nearest trusted garage on the Trust My Garage website.
- Leaving the engine running while the car is left unattended
During the wintery weather, it may be tempting to leave your car running to warm up before you head out on your morning commute to work. However, unless you’re doing so on a private driveway or garage, this is actually a punishable offence. It is recommended that motorists do not leave their vehicles unattended with the engine on, as such actions could lead to theft or damage; both of which could further lead to subsequent danger or injury.
- Sleeping in a car whilst drunk
After a heavy night out, you can sometimes find yourself waking up in a variety of unexpected places. If, for some reason, you find yourself locked out of your own home, it may be tempting to have a kip in your car instead. It may seem like a perfectly reasonable solution; it’s warm and cushioned, and can keep you safe like a protective bubble. But, it could also see you being penalised.
If you fall asleep in a car whilst under the influence of alcohol, you can face punishments not too dissimilar than those linked to drink driving. Although you may be curled up in the back seat with the engine off, you are still considered in control of a vehicle. Even if you have no intention of driving the vehicle whilst under the influence, simply being inside it whilst drunk could land you in trouble.
In many cases, penalisation for these cases are at the discretion of any officer present. If they consider you to be out of control of your vehicle, or posing a potential danger or hazard to other road users, they are well within their rights to issue fines, penalties and points. For the safety of yourself and other motorists, it is important to take extra consideration whilst driving, and we recommend staying extra attentive! Which of these habits didn’t you know about?