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10 things you forgot were illegal when driving

Estimated Read Time: 4 mins

Carrie Tennick, August 22, 2019

When you get into your car in the morning to drive to work, do you check your number plates to see if they’re too dirty for driving? Or are you conscious of the fact that if you splash a pedestrian on a pavement from a puddle, you could be liable for a fine of up to £5,000?

As these examples show, there are so many rules in the Highway Code that it’s easy to forget some of them – particularly if you’ve been behind the wheel for many years now.

So we’ve put together a guide to some of the things you might have forgotten were illegal when driving.

1. Distractions while driving

Avoid all distractions while driving – including arguing with passengers or other road users. It’s frowned upon to partake in any of the following activities while driving:

  • Listening to loud music
  • Reading maps
  • Adjusting any radio or other music
  • Eating and drinking
  • Smoking
  • Arguing with passengers or other road users

2. Headlight-flashing

Don’t flash your headlights to let other drivers in. You’re only allowed to flash them to let others know you’re there. Rule 110 of the Highway Code states that you shouldn’t “flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users”.

3. Leaving cars running

You’re not allowed to leave your car running on a public road while it’s unattended – even if you’re de-icing it. The rules say that if the car is likely to be stationary for more than a couple of minutes, it should be switched off to reduce emissions and noise pollution.

4. Overtaking at crossings

Don’t overtake at a pedestrian crossing – even though you have more momentum. If there is a vehicle near a crossing, you can’t overtake it even if it’s stopped and the traffic lights are turning green. It may be concealing pedestrians on the crossing, so to keep everyone safe, just slow down and make sure there’s no one there.

5. Parking the wrong way

You can’t park on a road at night facing the wrong way – unless you’re in a dedicated parking space. This isn’t because you’ll then have to pull out into oncoming traffic, but because you might dazzle other drivers. Your rear reflectors won’t be visible to anyone approaching either.

6. Animals on the hard shoulder

If you break down on a motorway and have to pull onto the hard shoulder, keep any animals in the car. You’ll have to leave the car through the left-hand door – as will your passengers – but all pets will have to stay inside. However, the Highway Code also says that if there’s an emergency, you can take them out if you keep them under proper control on the verge.

7. Cigarette butts and banana skins

While driving, you’re not allowed to throw anything out of the window – including cigarette butts and even plant matter like banana skins. So regardless of your love for a certain Italian plumber racing a go-kart, you’ll have to keep all rubbish in the car until you can put it safely in a bin.

8. Kids in car seats

Children have to use a car seat until they turn 12 or they reach 135cm in height – whichever comes first. So no matter how often they moan and complain that their friends will laugh at them, you’ll have to buckle them into their special seat every time you drive them anywhere – including school.

9. Hand-held microphones

According to Rule 149 of the Highway Code, you’re not allowed to use a hand-held microphone when driving. Although this means you might have to put a stop to your amateur version of Carpool Karaoke, this rule focuses more on hand-held phones and the general idea that holding any device while behind the wheel is distracting and dangerous.

10. Speed limits aren't the limit

When driving, you shouldn’t treat speed limits as a target – they’re often not actually reflective of what might be an appropriate limit. Look at factors like weather, traffic and the road conditions to establish whether you should be going slower than the limit suggests.

The Highway Code and road laws all exist to keep us as safe as possible. Reducing car accidents is an aim we can all get behind. So it might pay to take the time to familiarise yourself with the little book again.