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UK Driving Laws Debunked

With driving laws frequently changing its often difficult for drivers to keep on top of the latest rules, especially when these are combined with myths and incorrect information. Here is a reminder of some UK driving laws, as well as some common misconceptions.

Child car seats

It’s thought that over a fifth of parents and grandparents don’t use a child car seat for every journey with their young passengers. Drivers gave many reasons for not properly securing a child including forgetting the seat, simply travelling a short distance, and believing that they didn’t have room for the seat due to other items in the car.
 
The current UK law dictates that all children under 12 years old or 135cm tall must be secured into a child car seat.

Seat belts

By law, you must wear a seat belt if one is fitted in the seat you are using. There are only a few exceptions to this; if your doctor advises that you should not use a seat belt for a medical reason (note that you will be provided with a Certificate of Exemption which you must keep in your vehicle), if you are reversing, or if you are driving a goods vehicle on deliveries that is travelling no more than 50 metres between stops.

Footwear

Many people believe that driving without shoes is illegal, but this is not true. You may drive barefoot if you can operate the pedals safely. While not illegal, it isn’t advisable to drive in flip flops, Ugg boots, wellington boots or any other footwear which doesn’t offer suitable grip. If you are deemed to be putting yourself or other passengers and motorists at risk due to your shoes, you could face a fine or points on your licence.

Alcohol & drugs

Not surprisingly, it is illegal to drive if you have taken illegal drugs. If convicted of drug driving you may face a minimum of a 1-year driving ban, an unlimited fine, up to 6 months in prison and a criminal record. You can face the same charges if convicted of driving while on legal drugs, such as prescribed medication, if they make you unfit to drive. Many prescription drugs can affect your driving ability and you should check with your doctor before driving.
 
There are strict alcohol limits in place for drivers, but, the best advice is to not drink at all. Alcohol can affect each person differently, meaning the limits aren’t always exact. By law, it is illegal to drive with 35mg of alcohol per 100ml of breath, 80mg per 100ml of blood and 107mg per 100ml of urine. Possible penalties for breaking this law include imprisonment, a fine or a driving ban.
 
It is illegal to smoke in a vehicle with anyone under 18 years old. While smoking when driving is not illegal any other time, you can still face a careless driving charge if it affects your ability to drive safely.
UK driving laws

Eating and drinking

According to a poll taken in 2018, 1 in 10 of us eat while we drive. While this isn’t illegal, you must make sure that eating and drinking does not distract you behind the wheel. 
Not drinking enough water can have the same effect as drink driving, so it’s advised to drink plenty of water through a long driveHowever, it’s a good idea to drink before and after a journey, as well as taking stops between, to avoid distractions which can cause dangerous driving.

Visibility

While there is no law that states it is illegal to drive with snow, ice or dirt on your car, it is a legal requirement to ensure you have a clear view of the road. The Highway Code states that you must be able to see out of every glass panel in your car, this includes all windows and the front and back windscreen.
 
If your number plate is missing or covered in any way, you could face a fine of £1,000. This same fine can also be applied if anything obstructs your view, such as a large sat-nav or hanging air freshener.

Tyres

Car tyres must have a minimum tread depth of 1.6mm across the middle three-quarters and around the entire tyre. For motorcycles and large vehicles, the required depth is 1mm.
 
As well as tyres, it is important to ensure that other aspects of your car are in good working order. These include sufficient levels of engine oil, water, brake fluid and windscreen washer. You must also check your brakes, engine and lights on a regular basis.

Phones

It is illegal to hold a phone or sat-nav while driving and the law still applies even if you’re stationary, for example, if you are stuck in traffic or waiting at traffic lights. You must ensure you have hands-free access. The only exception to using a hand-held phone is if you’re safely parked or if you’re calling 999 in an emergency.
 
If you’re caught breaking this law, you can receive 6 points and a £200 fine. And it gets worse if you’ve only passed your driving test in the last two years as you will lose your licence!

Puddles

At times, thanks to the British weather, driving through puddles is unavoidable. Yet, it’s worth noting that splashing a pedestrian, either accidentally or intentionally, is an offence. Believe it or not, you could face a hefty fine as well as points on your licence, so it’s worth giving pedestrians a little extra room in wet conditions if you can do so safely.
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