Don't be caught out...make sure you know your driving rules and regulations!
Most driving offences are clearly defined. Example: if you drive at a speed faster than the limit on any given road, you're breaking the law…simple, right? Well, sometimes it's not quite so black and white, and that's why you've got to be EXTRA careful. Here's 27 driving offences you didn't realise were driving offences AND will cost you a lot!
It's a fact: there ARE driving offences that you probably didn't know were illegal, and some of us may regularly commit them without even realising. And while there are laws we understand – they're almost all common knowledge – the ones that will catch you out are the ones we don't.
We spoke to Sergeant Ian Manley, from the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Road Policing Unit, about driving legislation who said: "It's vital that all motorists adhere to the laws of the road. The legislation is in place to protect road users and pedestrians from harm. Driving under the influence of prescription drugs for example, or using your mobile phone whilst behind the wheel, significantly increases your chances of being involved in a collision."
As Sergeant Manley explains, laws are there to make the road safer for all of us. With his comment in mind, we scoured the legislation to find the driving offences that aren't common knowledge and the huge penalties – financially and in potential jail time – you might have to pay if you commit them. The more you know, eh?
1. Sleeping in your car after you've had a few drinks
Penalty: 10 points, a fine, possible jail time, possible 12-month ban.
While some of you may think it's a wise and sensible move to kip in your car after a heavy night out (because you quite rightly won't consider driving), you could leave yourself open to a 'drunk in charge' fine.
The law states that those in charge of a vehicle should not be inebriated. And, while you could argue that being asleep means you are not necessarily 'in charge' of the vehicle, the police can (and have in the past) use this as an excuse to charge people with a driving offence.
2. Parking on the wrong side of the road at night
Penalty: A fine of up to £2,500.
It's illegal to park your car facing against the direction of traffic at night, according to a law that was introduced to prevent drivers' views becoming impaired due to the headlights of a parked car.
3. Having a dirty number plate
Penalty: A fine of up to £1,000
This is one that catches SO many people out. If there's one thing you should do before getting behind the wheel, it's checking your number plates. Dirty number plates could leave you with a fine of up to £1,000, so watch out for yours getting too filthy.
4. Paying with your phone at a drive-through restaurant
Penalty: 6 points, and a fine of up £1,000
This is such an easy mistake to make, because technically, you're not allowed to use your phone while you're driving…even if it is just to pay for your Big Mac.
While it may seem like the easiest option to tap your phone on a chip and pin device and go, you could face a maximum £1,000 fine or six penalty points. The best way to avoid this is to make sure your engine is switched off and your handbrake is applied.
5. Taking prescription drugs before driving
Penalty: A minimum 12-month driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to 6 months in prison, a criminal record – and your licence will show you were convicted for drug driving and that will last for 11 years.
Over-the-counter drugs could see you banned from driving. Here's a list of the legal medication that could result in a drug-driving charge:
6. Overtaking at a pedestrian crossing
Penalty: 3 points and a fine of up to £1,000.
Have you ever been coming up to a pedestrian crossing on a multi-lane road, and there's a stationary car at the traffic lights already? Have you ever sped straight past that car because, as you approach, the traffic lights turned green?
Well, this is illegal. You shouldn't overtake the car nearest to the pedestrian crossing because their vehicle may be concealing a pedestrian already on the crossing.
7. Warning other drivers about a speed trap
Penalty: A fine of up to £1,000.
Drivers can find themselves facing hefty fines for warning other motorists (by flashing their headlights), about a speeding trap set up by the police.
While you might think you're just being a good Samaritan to other road users, you're running the risk of getting a huge fine if you're caught. In the Highway Code under rule 110, it states that drivers should "only flash headlights to let other road users know that you are there". It goes on to say that drivers should "not flash their headlights to convey any other message".
This offence falls under the category of obstructing a police officer.
8. Placing baby seats in a seat with an airbag
Penalty: A fine of up to £500.
A rear-facing baby seat must not be used in a seat with an activated front airbag. Although airbags can save lives, they can be dangerous for babies and young children.
This is because an airbag inflates almost instantly, in as little as 20 milliseconds, after a crash. The thin nylon airbag gets an immediate injection of hot nitrogen gas, which makes it expand so quickly that it forces it out from the dashboard at about 160 mph (257 km/h). It poses a clear risk to a baby in a rear-facing seat, who is directly in the airbag's line of fire.
9. Towing a vehicle at the incorrect speed
Penalty: A fine of up to £1,000.
Speed limits are not guidelines, they are set rules that drivers must abide by. However sometimes people forget that the set speed limits can differ depending on the vehicle, and whether they're towing another vehicle or not.
Remember, vehicles towing a caravan or trailer on a motorway must not exceed 60mph. This is for the safety of you and other drivers on the road.
10. Towing an uninsured vehicle
Penalty: £300 fine and 6 points.
We're sure this one is likely to have caught a few of you out. Did you know that any vehicle being towed needs to have its own insurance?
Just because a vehicle is broken down, it does not cease to be a vehicle and needs to be insured.
11. Windscreen wipers and washers NOT working
Penalty: £300 fine and 3 points.
You'd be amazed how many people get pulled over without washer fluid in their vehicle's water tank. You'd be even more amazed with the amount of people that get pulled over because their wipers are dangling off the back of their vehicle.
If you've got them, they NEED to work. Some vehicles have them, some vehicles don't. Saloon cars and panel vans often don't come with rear windscreen wipers as standard, but they can be fitted and if they are they better be in working order.
12. Using your mobile phone as a sat nav in an unfixed position
Penalty: 6 points and a fine of up to £200, AND if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years, you'll also lose your licence.
To avoid breaking the law, your phone must be fixed to the windscreen or dashboard so it's in clear sight for use while driving, without requiring you to hold it.
The police have the power to stop you if they believe you have been distracted by using a mobile phone while driving. You're not even allowed to pick it up and use it momentarily – this is breaking the law.
13. Letting animals out of the car while broken-down on the hard shoulder
Penalty: If the animals cause an accident, you will face a driving penalty depending on the severity of the accident.
The Highway Code clearly states that you should leave any animals in a broken-down vehicle when stranded on a hard shoulder, because if they were to run across the road and cause an accident, you could face a driving offence charge.
Be EXTRA careful with your pets if you break down, you don't want any harm to come to them, and you CERTAINLY don't want to be guilty of breaking the law.
14. Parking within 10 metres of a junction
Penalty: £30 fine.
Parking too close to a junction is not only illegal, it's annoying too. It makes life harder for everyone – those approaching the junction must steer around the parked car, and those turning in to the junction risk driving straight into it too.
Moral of the story: be wary of the distance you park from a junction to avoid breaking the law.
15. Flashing your lights to give way
Penalty: £30 fine.
Many of us will flash our lights to other motorists to let them pass, but you are not legally allowed to use your lights to do this. Headlamp flashes should only be used to warn other drivers of your presence.
If you are caught flashing your headlights for any other reason, such as warning others of a speed trap, you could face a minimum £30 fine.
16. Eating and drinking while driving
Penalty: Up to 9 points and a £100 fine.
While eating or drinking behind the wheel might not be strictly against the law, it's frowned upon. And, if you lose control and cause an accident while you're distracted by snacking or drinking, then you could face a £100 fine, and anything from three to nine penalty points.
17. Driving in the middle lane of the motorway
Penalty: 3 points and a fine of up to £100
If you spend most of your time in the middle of the motorway and don't pull into the inside lane after overtaking, then you could get a fine. Staying in the middle lane falls into the category of 'careless driving' and punishment for this is three penalty points and up to a £100 fine.
18. Beeping your horn in anger
Penalty: £30 fine.
We've all been there…those days where we've experienced a little road rage and been tempted to honk our horns in frustration. The problem is, if you beep your horn for any other reason than alerting someone of your presence, you could receive a £30 fine.
Also, did you know that you must not use your horn between the hours of 23:30 and 07:00 on a restricted road or when the vehicle is stationary.
19. Not clearing your windscreen
Penalty: It will depend on what happens, or if you cause an accident.
The Highway Code claims that if you're driving in adverse weather conditions you must, by law, be able to see out of every glass panel in your vehicle. This means getting rid of ALL snow or frost on your windows. Even your mirrors need to be clear too!
If you set off in your vehicle without doing so, you're at risk of incurring penalties – so to be on the safe side, be sure to always clear your windows. The two minutes it takes you to clear them could be the difference between you getting a penalty or not.
20. Smoking while driving
Penalty: £50 fine and 3 points.
Since October 2015, it has been illegal to smoke in your car if any passenger is under the age of 18.
As the driver, you are responsible for other passengers who choose to smoke if there is a child in the vehicle. You are both equally culpable and will both be penalised.
21. Driving with snow on the roof
Penalty: £60 fine and 3 points.
While there is no specific offence relating to snow on vehicle roofs, it could lead to other offences. If snow slips onto the windscreen or flies into the path of another road user, it could cause a hazard to you and others, leaving you open to being penalised.
Offences could include driving without due care and attention, or 'using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition'.
22. Not demisting your windows
Penalty: £60 fine and 3 points.
As well as clearing all snow and ice from the outside of your vehicle, you should also demist all your windows inside and your mirrors too, so you can see out of every single one.
The penalty for not doing so is up to a £60 fine and three points on your licence.
23. Leaving a car parked with its engine running
Penalty: A fine of up to £80.
Stationary idling is an offence under section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Act enforces rule 123 of the Highway Code which states: "You must not leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road."
This doesn't mean that you've got to stop your engine at every red light: you are allowed to leave your engine running if you're stationary in traffic or diagnosing faults.
24. Leaving a child alone in the car
Penalty: Prosecution, depending on age of child and circumstances they are left in.
According to gov.uk, it's illegal to leave a child alone if it places them at risk. Parents should use their judgement on how mature the child is before they decide to leave them alone in a car.
The law warns that parents can be prosecuted if they leave their child unsupervised 'in a manner likely to cause unnecessary suffering or injury to health'.
25. Incorrect use of lanes, AKA 'lane hogging'
Penalty: £90 fine and 3 points.
Middle-lane "hogging" has gone on for years. It's common to see a situation where the left-hand lane is relatively empty, but cars are still sitting in the middle lane instead of just using it for overtaking.
Part 264 of the Highway Code says: "You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking several slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past."
So, it's simple really… on roads with more than one lane, drivers must stay in the left lane unless overtaking or turning right.
26. Not telling the DVLA about changes to your details
Penalty: A £1,000 fine.
You must tell the DVLA when your name or address changes so your driving licence, vehicle log book (V5C) and vehicle tax are up to date.
It is illegal to change your name and address and not tell the DVLA. So, if you move to a new house or get married – make sure you let them know.
27. Not telling DVLA about medical conditions
Penalty: A fine of up to £1,000.
You must tell the DVLA if you have a driving licence and you develop a 'notifiable' medical condition/disability, or if a condition/disability has got worse since you got your licence.
Notifiable conditions are anything that could affect your ability to drive safely: These can include:
- Neurological and mental health conditions
- Physical disabilities
- Visual impairments