Driving laws, regulations and restrictions are sometimes difficult to pin down. There can often be grey areas that shift from legal to illegal – especially as new technology becomes commonplace. So, there might be times when, as a driver, you’re actually breaking the law without even knowing it…
1. Having a snack
A survey released last year revealed that over 60% of people in the UK have eaten behind the wheel. While there is no specific legislation that bans drivers from eating while driving, there is precedent to say that you could be fined or prosecuted for doing so. Worryingly, the survey also found that one in 50 people (2%) has narrowly avoided a crash in the past year, having had to brake or swerve to avoid a hazard because they were distracted by food or drink. Essentially, if you feel that what you’re eating could distract you then don’t eat it. Stay away from hot and greasy foods…and cereal.
2. Checking your phone (even when the car is stationary)
All drivers by now surely know that using their phone while driving is illegal. Even so, how often do we see someone using one while speeding down a motorway? What you might not be aware of, though, is that it’s actually illegal to use your mobile phone in the driver’s seat if the engine is running, even if you’ve pulled in to a lay-by. While a police officer would have to be particularly strict to enforce this, it’s still worth being safe and avoiding handling your mobile while in the car. Make the most of hands-free sets and in-car Bluetooth interfaces.
3. Enabling sat-nav speed camera alerts
With more innovative apps available for all sorts of uses, it was inevitable that one day someone would attempt to solve the world’s well documented hatred of speed cameras. Retailers such as Tom-Tom have created add-ons for their sat-nav systems which help drivers by pointing out speed cameras before they get caught out. Although still legal in the UK, France has brought in legislation to ban them and you can get hefty fines (Up to €1500) for even having them installed on your system. It might only be a matter of time before the UK follows suit.
4. Not keeping your headlights on
Learning which of your car’s lights are appropriate for which situation is all part of your driving education. Most countries have slightly different regulations for light settings, and they range simply from driving at night to being seen in adverse weather. For example, Scandinavian countries have made it illegal not to have your lights on at all. In the UK, all new cars are required to have Daylight Running Lamps (DRL) installed. It’s not yet a requirement that older cars have them installed, but many people are choosing to use them anyway. It is also illegal to drive with your fog lights on unless visibility is severely hampered, the reason being that they can obscure your break lights and can dazzle other road users.
5. Having your pets in the car
Many of us travel with our pets in the car. Although, like eating in the car, there is no specific legislation on travelling with pets, you could still get in trouble for letting your pooch wander about in the vehicle when you’re driving. The Highway Code recommends that pets should be restrained so that they cannot distract the driver. Indeed there is some debate about whether or not pets should be strapped in with seatbelts.
Most of these misdemeanours are something we’d do without thinking. While they might be small issues we should do everything possible to make sure we are considerate and safe drivers and that we uphold the law to the best of our knowledge.