There are so many rules when it comes to what you can and can’t do when driving, which can cause confusion. Here are some answers provided by the RAC that provide clarity to some of the common motoring myths and remind you of what the laws actually are.
Is it illegal to eat/drink and drive?
It is not illegal, however, if you present a significant danger while snacking, the police could prosecute you for careless driving, if they think you are not in complete control of your vehicle.
Is it illegal to smoke while driving?
Yes, sometimes. Smoking at the wheel is not an offence in itself unless it leads to careless driving, however, it is illegal to smoke in a car that is carrying under-18-year-old passengers.
Vaping while driving is not illegal in itself but motorists could face prosecution for driving without due care and attention, as it has been deemed to be distracting.
Are you allowed to drive 10 per cent over the speed limit?
No. While many vehicles’ speedometers allow a 10 per cent error in overestimation (but not underestimation) built in, this doesn’t mean you can drive at 33mph in a 30 zone, for example.
Simply put, if a police officer catches you with a mobile radar speed gun exceeding the limit, you are liable for prosecution even at 1mph over the limit. This also strictly applies to speed camera’s as there is no leniency, speed cameras can catch you, even if you’re above the speed limit by 1mph.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) suggests forces don’t prosecute until drivers exceed a margin of error of 10 per cent of the speed limit to take into account driver concentration, plus 2 mph for speedometer error. But this is only a suggestion.
Is it illegal to drive with the interior light on?
Police have the right to tell you to turn it off if they perceive it to be a distraction, but it is not against the law.
Is it illegal to have open alcohol in a car?
No. In some American states it is, but in the UK it is not illegal for a passenger to drink while being driven in a car, so by default, it is not illegal to have open alcohol containers in a car. It is, however, illegal to drink alcohol in a car while supervising a learner driver.
Is it okay to make a phone call using a hands-free system?
Using a handheld mobile phone while driving is illegal, punishable by six points on your licence and a £200 fine. It isn’t illegal to have a conversation using a hands-free mobile phone. However, voice-controlled Bluetooth systems eradicate the need to touch your phone, if you have to handle your phone to make the call, that’s breaking the law, even if you’re using a set of headphones. It’s not the speaking that’s illegal, it’s the physical operation of the phone.
What are the rules on driving with a sat nav?
Sat navs have to be in a fixed position, either on your windscreen or your dashboard, but the dashboard is recommended so your view isn’t impeded. This includes using your smartphone as a sat nav.
Is it illegal to drive with headphones on?
It is a popular motoring myth that driving with headphones on is illegal. Well, there is no law against it, so technically it is perfectly legal. However it is inadvisable to do so and it could fall under driving without due care and attention and careless driving, should a police officer deem it so. Music or talking in your ears can be a huge distraction and could mean you’re unable to hear traffic warnings or emergency sirens.
Are women better drivers than men?
Arguably one of the most controversial and most talked about motoring myths, that proves to be difficult to answer, not least because of the issue of discrimination. According to a study from Moneysupermarket.com on driving habits in rental cars, female drivers exceed the speed limit 17.5 per cent more often than men, but men are five times more likely to cause damage to a rental car than female motorists.
It is impossible to say which gender is ultimately better. There may be genetic factors we haven’t uncovered but as it stands it is down to the individual, not the gender.
If a speed camera doesn’t flash does it mean I’ve not been caught?
No. There are many different variations of speed camera but only some flash to take a picture of you speeding, others use infra-red light. No flash does not mean no conviction. Just don’t speed is the answer.
How many drinks can I have and still drive?
Other common motoring myths include that men can have “a pint or two” or women a large glass of win and still be safe to drive afterwards. Your blood-alcohol level actually depends on many factors other than the alcoholic drinks you consume- if you’ve eaten or exercised, how tired you are, or even if you’re taking any medication can all affect how your body processes the chemical. The best advice is don’t drink any alcohol if you’re driving.
Liquor chocolates can also affect a breath test and put you over the limit if you are not careful, of course, it would take a lot of consumed chocolates to push you over the limit. However, mixing liquor chocolates with drinking alcohol can definitely have a significant effect on your level of alcohol in your system.
Does my fully-comprehensive insurance policy cover me to drive other cars?
In many cases, with the owner’s permission, the answer is yes. But if you’re under 25, have certain previous motoring convictions or the car you’re intending to drive is particularly unusual, you might find that you aren’t insured to drive it. To be on the safe side, check your own car insurance policy before getting behind the wheel of another car. It should outline your level of cover and any clauses or stipulations. Failing that, check with your insurance company.