Driving myths busted – 6 things you CAN do behind the wheel of a car
Once you get past the obvious ‘no-nos’ such as driving without valid insurance or tax, or while under the influence, there appears to be a bit of confusion about what is legal and what is not. Let’s take a look at some of the more obscure driving law myths out there and sort the facts from the fake news.
- Eating and drinking
Contrary to what some people may think, it is not illegal to consume food or non-alcoholic drinks while driving. That said, if you get distracted by having a snack or drink behind the wheel to the point where you are no longer in control, you could be prosecuted for careless driving. If caught, you’ll be fined £100 on the spot and receive 3 penalty points on your licence.
What’s more, if you’re ordering a drive-thru hamburger or coffee from your mobile phone while driving or even while stationary but with the engine running, you could be fined.
In the UK, it’s OK for passengers to be drinking alcohol while in the car, unless they’re supervising a learner driver. Obviously, our driving laws and national drink-drive limits must be respected at all times, otherwise you risk heavy fines and a possible driving ban.
Smoking in your car is perfectly legal as long as it doesn’t cause a distraction. If it does, careless driving charges could be brought, as is the case with eating and drinking above. However, since October 2015, you are no longer permitted to smoke in the car if you are travelling with passengers aged under 15 years. This is to protect children’s health from the dangerous effects of inhaling smoke.
- No shoes
While it is technically legal to drive without wearing shoes, or only wearing flip flops, there are some provisos. You are committing a crime when you are no longer able to operate the car’s controls easily and safely, for instance by having wet feet. That way, you would be putting yourself and other road users at risk.
Furthermore, the Driving Standards Agency says that “suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”
- Using phone satnav
If your car doesn’t come with built-in satnav, there’s always your smartphone, but is this legal to use? Whether it’s smartphone app or a fixed device, it must always be fixed in a set position, either on the dashboard or the windscreen without obscuring your view of the road. And just like with hands-free phones, it is illegal to interfere with the device or amend your route while you’re driving. You’ll be risking 6 penalty points and a £200 fine if you get caught.
- Interior light on
If you choose to keep the car’s interior lights on while driving, it’s entirely up to you. That is, unless the light distracts you from driving, or constitutes a dazzling distraction to yourself or other road users (especially car drivers behind you). If you get pulled over by the police and they decide that your interior light is a problem, you could be asked to switch it off. Worse still, you can be charged with careless driving.
- Headphones on
The same applies if you’re wearing headphones and are listening to audio while driving. While there’s no specific law prohibiting the wearing of headphones, it can be dangerous to do so. Not only could you be distracted by listening to your headphones, loud music can also prevent you from hearing important noises. Not being able to hear level crossing warnings, emergency vehicle sirens, approaching vehicles or motorbikes etc because of the wearing of headphones could easily see you charged with dangerous driving.