18 September 2020

20 Weird UK Driving Laws You Probably Don’t Know (But You Should!)

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes, 47 seconds. Contains 1357 words

We all know the law when it comes to driving. Don’t look at your phone behind the wheel, no going above the speed limit, never go on a red light etc.

However, there are actually some more obscure driving laws in the UK that you’re probably unaware of. Here is a list of driving laws you probably don’t know, but should be aware of:


  1. Using your phone to pay at a drive thru is illegal

Next time you’re craving a Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets when behind the wheel, you probably should ensure you have your debit card handy. Whilst the likes of Google Pay have become increasingly popular over the years, using your phone to pay at a drive thru is considered using your phone behind the wheel, and could land you 6 penalty points and a £200 fine.


2. You can’t pull over on a hard shoulder to rest

If you’ve ever been driving on a motorway and started to feel tired, you’ve probably felt tempted to pull over onto the hard shoulder on the left and rest for a bit. However, unless driving on a smart motorway, there are very few examples of when using the hard shoulder is permitted. This includes when your car breaks down, if you’ve been pulled over by the police, or if it’s an emergency (and no, needing the toilet does not count as an emergency). If you just need to rest, pull into the next service station on the road.

The only other time you may be permitted to use a hard shoulder is if it is open as an extra lane on a smart motorway.


3. No driving with unrestrained pets

It may be a cute sight to let your dog poke its head out of the window whilst driving, but doing so could land you with a hefty fine. This offence counts as distracted driving, as a driver may not be able to fully focus on the road if their pet is unrestrained. Restraints can include a rear seat harness or a dog guard.


4. No cradling babies

To all the parents out there, cradling your baby is a no-no. Whilst this may initially sound unfair, it’s for the safety of the baby in the event of an accident. Babies must be fully secure at all times when in a car.


5. Honking your horn out of aggression

Very few drivers will probably know this, but it’s actually illegal to honk your horn out of aggression. Unless it’s to warn other drivers of your presence, you may actually get in trouble for honking your horn. So next time a driver cuts you off, or you’re stuck in traffic, unfortunately you may need to think twice before honking.


6. Giving way to emergency vehicles

It’s a no-brainer that when you see/hear the sirens and alarms of an emergency vehicle, you should get out of the way as soon as possible so they can go through. However, when doing so, you need to make sure you’re not doing anything that would be considered illegal. This includes running through red lights, moving onto the pavement and moving onto the bus lane.


7. Staying in your vehicle when broken down on a hard shoulder

If you have no choice but to pull over onto a hard shoulder when on the motorway, all passengers, as well as the driver, must leave the vehicle immediately. Make sure everyone exits the door on the left, and then get as far away from the motorway as possible (go behind the motorway barriers if available.)


8. Letting pets out on hard shoulders

This rule seems contradictory to the one above, but when pulled over on a hard shoulder, pets must remain inside the vehicle whenever possible. According to The Motorway Traffic (England and Wales) Regulations 1982, “the person in charge of any animal which is carried by a vehicle using a motorway shall, so far as is practicable, ensure that the animal shall not be removed from or permitted to leave the vehicle while the vehicle is on a motorway.”


9. No drenching pedestrians in puddles maliciously

When it’s raining heavily, it’s unfortunately going to be hard to avoid hitting puddles, and sometimes it will be completely impossible. However, maliciously drenching pedestrians can land you a hefty fine. So whilst you’re laughing as the poor pedestrian is soaking in their clothes, they’ll be having the last laugh when you’re slapped with a £100 fine and 3 points on your licence.


10. Speeding when towing a caravan

If you’re towing a caravan, you must make sure you don’t exceed the 60mph speed limit. When on the motorway, you must remain on the left-hand lane at all times.


11. Hogging the fast lane on the motorway

Drivers on the motorway are advised and encouraged to stick to the left lane as much as possible. Using the middle lane (or the “fast lane”) is completely fine if you’re overtaking a slower vehicle, but remaining in the middle lane when the traffic is clear ahead is known as “middle-lane hogging”, and it’s illegal.


12. Smart motorway speed limits are not (usually) just advisable

If you’re driving on a smart motorway and see 40mph ringed by a red circle, you MUST slow down to 40mph. It is compulsory, not advisable. The only time a speed limit is considered as just advisable is if it is ringed by an orange circle.


13. Swearing at other drivers

Okay, you’re stuck in traffic that seems endless, or you just had to swerve because someone cut you off. You’re angry, and you need to let off some steam. Poking your head out the window to shout some expletives whilst shaking your fist may seem tempting, but you should think twice before doing so. This is considered disorderly behaviour and is deemed illegal.


14. Eating when behind the wheel

Technically, doing something like eating when driving, or switching a CD when listening to music isn’t illegal at all. However, you should be very careful when doing so. If the police deem it to be unsafe, it could be classed as driving without due care.


15. Sleeping in your car whilst drunk

This is a bit of a weird one. However, if you’re caught sleeping in your car whilst drunk and in the possession of car keys, you could receive 10 points on your licence. If it’s late, you’re drunk and have no way of getting home, it might be best to take public transport or book a hotel room.


16. Clear snow off your roof and de-ice your windows

Your car must be free of snow on the roof when driving, as a sudden brake could blind your front view, or create a hazard for other drivers if it spills onto the road.

Additionally, all windows must be de-iced to ensure that the driver’s vision is not obstructed.


17. Using a dirty licence plate

Your licence plate must be clear and easy to read at all times. A dirty licence plate could be seen as an attempt to conceal your identity, and could land you in trouble with the police.


18. Driving too slowly

“Why on earth would driving slowly earn me a fine? I’m nowhere near the speed limit!”

If you’re driving considerably slower than the traffic around you, then you could be considered a hazard. Driving slow can be classed as careless driving, and the police have the power to issue you a fine if they deem you to be putting the safety of other drivers at risk – especially if you’re doing it on the motorway!


19. Sticking a dash cam on the wrong part of the windscreen

A dash cam must always be placed at least 29cm away from the steering column, and always in an area where it will not be a distraction to the driver.


20. Using your phone as a sat nav

Under newer laws introduced in 2017 to stop the use of mobile phones when driving, it is now illegal to use a smartphone as a sat nav unless that phone is securely mounted to a holder, or a mount.


Motorway sign over the M42
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Steve Danielsgeograph.org.uk/p/4500651

M25: junction 29 sign
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © N Chadwickgeograph.org.uk/p/2028367

M25 motorway – 1 mile to junction 18, clockwise
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Peter Whatleygeograph.org.uk/p/3005478

McDonald’s Drive-in, Radcliffe
cc-by-sa/2.0 – © David Dixongeograph.org.uk/p/3221778

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