11 Driving Laws You Probably Didn't Know Existed
How many of us like to imagine ourselves as excellent drivers? Yet, with over 300 separate laws listed in The Highway Code for motorists to follow, drivers in the UK have a lot to remember.
Some of these laws are obvious and easy to follow, such as speed limits and the compulsory use of seatbelts. However, for every law you follow, there is an abundance of driving regulations you have likely never heard of. In this guide, we’re going to take a look at eleven driving laws you might not even know existed.
1. Middle Lane Hogging
When driving on a motorway, you should only use the middle and outside lanes for overtaking slow-moving traffic. Yet some motorists, who might be nervous about motorway driving and changing lanes, sometimes remain in the middle lane, even if there’s no traffic in the left-hand lane. Middle lane hogging frequently tops many surveys for the most annoying UK driving habits.
When driving on a three-lane motorway, rule 264 of the Highway Code stipulates that you should always be in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you move into the middle lane to overtake vehicles on the left-hand lane, you should move safely back into the left-hand lane as soon as the opportunity arises.
However, there are times when it’s ok to sit in the middle lane. For example, when traffic is joining the motorway from a slip road, it might make sense to move from the left-hand lane into the middle lane to give those motorists the chance to join the inside lane.
Do note that if you’re caught unnecessarily hogging the middle lane, the police can issue an on-the-spot £100 fine for careless driving as well as three penalty points.
2. Driving too slowly
With as many as 2.4 million speeding tickets issued across the UK in 2018-2019, speeding is the most common UK driving offence.
However, did you know that driving too slowly is equally dangerous and a driving offence? Going too slowly forces other drivers to adapt to your speed, and it may encourage overtaking, which increases the risk of a collision. Driving too slow on a multi-lane motorway can impact traffic in all lanes, causing drivers to brake and speed up continuously, increasing the risk of an accident.
While the vast majority of UK streets or motorways don’t have minimum speed signs or cameras, police officers do have the power to stop a slow driver if they feel they are a risk to other motorists. Although there is no minimum speed limit on most UK roads, you can still be fined for driving too slow if you’re seen as a hazard to other road users.
There is no specific penalty for driving too slowly. It may be that the police officer issues you with only a verbal warning and informs you of the dangers of driving too slowly. In more severe cases, a driver could find themselves in court, charged with driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users (penalty code CD30).
Penalty code CD30 comes with anything from 3 to 9 penalty points on a driver's licence, along with a fine up to a maximum of £5,000. Penalty points remain on a motorist's licence for four years from the date of the offence – this invariably would adversely affect the driver’s car insurance cost.
3. Swearing and making obscene gestures to other drivers
Most of us have all had moments where the actions of another driver will do something that gets our backs up. However, if you are one of those people whose initial reaction is to start giving v signs or making other rude gestures, it could hit you hard in the pocket.
If the police catch you making a rude sign to another motorist, this offence can be viewed as ‘disorderly conduct’, which would fall foul of the ‘Crime and Disorder Act 1998’ – this could result in you being fined up to £1,000.
In addition, officers can interpret drivers who take their hands off the wheel to perform such gestures as not being in ‘full control of their vehicle’. Being found guilty of this offence carries a maximum fine of £1,000 as well as the possibility of three points on your licence, resulting in higher insurance premiums.
So the next time you are tempted to swear when angry behind the wheel, you may want to think again.
4. Using your mobile phone to pay at a drive-through restaurant
Did you know that it’s illegal to use Apple Pay or Google Pay using your mobile device at drive-tru restaurants such as McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and Starbucks?
While it’s never been easier to pay for fast food while on the move, you could be handed a maximum £1,0000 fine as well as six penalty points for using a smartphone payment app to pay for your happy meal - which wouldn’t turn out to be such a happy meal after all!
If the matter goes to court, you could end up being banned from driving as well as receiving a maximum fine of £1,000. The law states that a driver can only use a hand-held device in their vehicle when safely parked and with the engine switched off.
So if you want to pay for your fast food at a drive-tru using Google or Apple Pay from your smartphone device, apply your handbrake and turn the engine off.
5. Dirty numberplate
While there is no law against driving around with a dirty vehicle, the law for driving with a filthy and unreadable numberplate could land you with a £1,000 fine under the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994.
Our advice is to check on your licence plate before each journey and give it a wipe if needed.
6. Pets on board
One of the best and most entertaining sights while out on the road is the image of a windswept dog poking its head out of a car window.
However, motorists could be breaking rule 57 of the Highway Code which confirms that pets in your car must be ‘suitably restrained’. Failure to properly secure a domestic animal while driving could land you with a £100 on-the-spot fine or a £5,000 fine and nine penalty points if it goes to court.
7. Warning other motorists about speed cameras
Have you ever flashed your headlights at another driver travelling in the opposite direction to warn them about a speed camera further ahead? If so, did you know that you broke two UK driving laws and could have landed you with a fine of up to £1,000 if you were caught?
It may seem courteous to flash your lights at fellow motorists to prewarn them about a speed camera, say thank you to a fellow driver, or let other vehicles pull out into traffic. However, this goes against Highway Code 110 as improper and dangerous use of headlights.
The Highway Code states that you should only use headlights to let people know you are there – and not attempt to convey any other message. If motorists are caught warning other drivers about a speed camera or police speed trap, they could be in breach of section 89 of the Police Act 1997. This law states that it is an offence to ‘wilfully obstruct a police officer in executing their duty’.
However, did you know that the warning doesn’t just relate to the road itself but also to social media? Posting any notification of police speed traps on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter would also breach section 89 of the Police Act 1997.
Breaking Section 89 of the Police Act 1997 can also lead to up to one month in prison.
8. Deliberately splashing pedestrians with puddles
A recent survey found that one-in-three motorists admit to unintentionally, or intentionally, splashing pedestrians with puddles.
In fact, one-in-eighteen drivers across the UK have admitted to deliberately splashing a pedestrian with a puddle.
However, it doesn’t matter whether the act was intentional or not. Under section three of the Road Traffic Act 1988, it is illegal to splash someone as it amounts to driving without ‘without reasonable consideration for other persons’ – it could result in a £100 fine as well as receiving three points on your licence.
However, if drivers are thought to be driving in a manner that “amounts to a clear act of incompetence, selfishness, impatience, and aggressiveness” then the maximum fine of £5,000 could be issued. Furthermore, if motorists fail to pay the £100 fixed penalty, they could face the whopping £5,000 maximum fine if the case is taken to court.
9. If you have medical conditions
Anyone who suffers from an ailment that could impact their driving ability should inform the DVLA. The majority of motorists don’t realise that the list of ailments that the DVLA needs to be notified of is quite broad.
It is estimated that millions of drivers could be suffering from conditions they should, but haven’t, told the DVLA about.
If you don’t inform the DVLA about a medical condition that might affect your driving, you could end up with a £1,000 fine. Plus, if you’re involved in an accident due to your condition, you could also face prosecution.
While some medical conditions seem obvious to report to the DVLA, others might not be so clear cut. There are almost 200 conditions listed on the DVLA website to check if you have at least one of them.
10. Snow on your roof
Around 63% of UK motorists start a journey with snow or ice on their roof, which could result in a £60 fine and possibly three points on their licence.
Although it’s not against the law to start a journey with snow on your roof, the Highway Code confirms that if driving in adverse weather conditions, you must be able to see out of each glass window in your vehicle.
Also, suppose snow falls from your roof while driving, or into the path of another motorist. In that case, you could be penalised for offences such as ‘driving without consideration’ or using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition.
Section 41D of the Road Traffic Act 1988 supports that it’s a legal requirement to have a clear view of the road ahead before you start your journey.
11. Using your car horn to tell someone off
The Highway Code states: “The horn. Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence” and “Never sound your horn aggressively.”
For example, you can use the car horn if another vehicle, cyclist or pedestrian looks like they are about to come into your path and haven’t seen you. Or, if you’re on narrow country roads where you’re unable to see around corners clearly, you can use your horn to warn drivers out of your sight that you’re approaching.
However, there are several times when beeping your horn is illegal. In the most extreme circumstances, you can be fined £1,000 or possibly even be arrested and charged if inappropriate use of your horn leads to an accident.
The law clearly states that you can’t use your horn between 11.30pm and 7.00am. This is considered anti-social behaviour, and the only exception is if you’re in danger and trying to attract attention.
Even pulling up outside someone’s house during these hours and hooting your horn to let them know you’re outside could land you a £30 fixed penalty notice.