Most of us know the rules of the road – but there are a few that even some seasoned drivers aren’t aware of. Don’t let them catch you out as they can come with hefty fines and points on your driving licence.
We run through 20 little-known rules and the penalties for each (correct at the time of writing, 5th May 2023).
1. Not updating the DVLA with your new address
Before you even get behind the wheel, you need to make sure all your paperwork is up to date. Did you know that failing to tell the DVLA that you’ve moved address could land you with a fine of up to £1,000?
So, if you move house, remember to:
- Let the DVLA know by updating your vehicle log book (V5C) with your new address
- Update your address on your driving licence
- Update your vehicle tax direct debit (if you use that payment method)
You can update your V5C online here for free.
2. Driving without your prescription glasses or contact lenses
Before you set off, remember your glasses or contacts (if you wear them) to ensure you meet the ‘standards of vision for driving’.
Otherwise, you could face a fine of up to £1,000 and be prosecuted if your actions result in an accident.
3. Wearing unsuitable sunglasses when driving
If it’s a sunny day, sunglasses can help to reduce glare when you are driving. But if your sunglasses restrict your vision (e.g., if they are too dark), you could be fined up to £5,000 and get nine penalty points. In the worst-case scenario, you could be banned from driving if it goes to court.
Find out which shades to wear when driving.
4. A dirty number plate
According to The Road Vehicle Regulations 2001, licence plates must be easy to read by both other drivers and devices (like speed cameras). So, if you have a dirty number plate, you could end up with a fine of up to £1,000.
You could also get fined if you have a number plate with rearranged letters or numbers, or characters that are removable or reflective.
5. Towing an uninsured vehicle
Everyone knows that you need to get your car insured by law. But were you aware that you also need to insure a towed vehicle? You must take out at least third-party insurance to avoid a £300 fixed penalty and 6 penalty points.
If you are taken to court, the fine could be unlimited and you could be disqualified from driving. The police could even take the uninsured vehicle away and destroy it.
6. Driving with unrestrained pets
It can be very dangerous and distracting if your pet isn’t restrained when you’re driving, e.g. by using a harness or carrier. It’s also against the law, and you could get a £1,000 fine and nine points on your licence. Fines can also go up to £5,000 if you’re taken to court.
7. Splashing pedestrians
The Road Traffic Act 1988 states that it is an offence to drive “without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place”. If you splash a pedestrian, this is classed as careless and inconsiderate driving, and could land you with a £100 fine plus penalty points. If you’re taken to court, this could rise to a maximum of £5,000.
8. Driving with broken windscreen wipers
You must have working windscreen wipers and a windscreen washer. It is an offence to drive your vehicle if this equipment isn’t in good working order, and you could be fined up to £2,500 and get 3 penalty points.
There are a few exceptions to this rule, which you can find on the government’s website.
9. Flashing headlights to tip off other drivers
The Highway Code states that you can “only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there.” Flashing your headlights “convey any other message or intimidate other road users” can lead to a £1,000 fine. This includes tipping other drivers off about speed traps, for example.
10. Blocking emergency services
If you block the police, fire or ambulance service (without a reasonable excuse) you could be fined up to £5,000, under The Emergency Workers (Obstruction) Act 2006.
11. Hogging the middle lane of the motorway
The middle lane of the motorway should only be used for overtaking vehicles in the left-hand lane. If you hog the middle lane when the left-hand lane is safe and clear, you could face a fine of up to £100 and 3 points.
12. Parking on the wrong side of the road at night
You could be fined up to £2,500 if you park on a road at night facing against the direction of traffic flow. The only exception to this is if you are using a recognised parking space.
13. Sleeping in your car after drinking
Even if you aren’t planning on driving your car, it’s still illegal to sleep in it if you’ve consumed alcohol. This is because you are still classed as in charge of a vehicle. You could be fined up to £2,500, get 10 points - and possibly prison time and a driving ban.
14. Beeping your horn when stationary
The Highway Code states that you should only use your horn “while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence.”
If you beep your horn when you are stationary, you could be slapped with a fine of up to £1,000. It is also against the law to hoot your horn when “driving in a built-up area between the hours of 11:30pm and 7:00am except when another road user poses a danger.”
15. Leaving your engine running when stationary
Rule 123 of The Highway Code states that you “must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.”
Breaking this rule can lead to a fine of up to £80. The only exceptions are if you need to run your engine to diagnose faults or you’re sitting at a red light.
But, as a rule of thumb, if you’re going to leave your car for a couple of minutes or so, you should switch off the engine to reduce noise and air pollution.
16. Eating behind the wheel
It’s not against the law to snack while driving, but it could distract you and lead to careless driving, which can incur a £100 fine and 3 penalty points.
17. Applying makeup when driving
Doing your makeup is not illegal, but again, it could distract you and cause careless driving, which can lead to a £100 fine and 3 penalty points.
18. Using an unfixed sat nav
It’s illegal to use a handheld device when driving, and if you’re using a sat nav it must be properly fixed in place. Remember to put it somewhere that doesn’t obstruct your view of the road or your surroundings. Using an unfixed sat nav could land you a fine of up to £1,000 and six points on your licence.
19. Using your mobile phone for any purpose
It’s illegal to use your mobile (or any other data device) for any purpose when you are driving, stopped at traffic lights, or queuing in traffic – even if it’s offline or in flight mode. If you do, you could get a £200 fine and six penalty points. If you are taken to court, you could be banned from driving, or receive a fine of up to £1,000.
There are some exceptions, such as you’re safely parked up, you are calling the emergency services, you’re making a contactless payment when stationary, or you’re using your device to park remotely.
20. Driving with an icy windscreen
You must be able to see properly out of your windows. If your windscreen is icy or snow falls from your roof onto your windscreen and blocks your view of the road, you could be fined £60 and get 3 penalty points. The same applies if you have misty windows – you need to make sure your mirrors and windows are fully demisted before you set off.
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