Rules of the road: 11 driving laws you might be breaking by accident

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Breaking laws by accident
Dogs in the car
Summer clothing
Road rage
Splashing pedestrians
Radio
Dirty number plates
Snow on the roof
Driving too slowly
Begging for change
Parking at night
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Breaking driving laws by accident

With hundreds of thousands of laws in the UK, many dating back centuries, it’s not surprising that some extremely strange ones exist.

Did you know, for example, that anyone who’s Welsh is prohibited from entering the city of Chester before sunrise and after sunset, that it’s illegal to die in the Houses of Parliament, or that Oliver Cromwell banned the eating of mince pies on Christmas Day?

There are many more you’d be forgiven for not knowing (or paying that much attention too! Who doesn’t love a mince pie on the big day?🎄).

However, there are some obscure motoring laws that, although not widely known, can still result in legal action. Most are included in the Highway Code but not all, so it’s essential to be aware and not get caught out. As they say, ignorance is no protection!

Drumroll please! Here’s our top 10 surprising driving laws that you might be breaking without realising it 🥁

Unrestrained dogs in the car

Dogs and other pets are part of the family, so when you head out for the day, it’s only natural to take them along for the ride.

But if your pet pooch is loose in the car, you can be fined up to £5,000 and issued with 9 points - now that's ruff!

Keep your precious furry friend in a carrier or harness when travelling, and, although it’s not actually illegal, never let your dog stick his head out of the window.

Yes, we all laugh at pups’ ears flapping in the wind, but it can be an accident waiting to happen if drivers are distracted or your dog decides to try and climb out.

(PS - in Alaska, it’s illegal to tie your dog to the roof of a moving vehicle - who knew?!)

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Summer clothes

Be careful that your summer attire doesn't impact your driving ability, or you could be facing a costly fine.

Rule 97 of the Highway Code states: "You should ensure that clothing and footwear do not prevent you using the controls in the correct manner."

Rule 237 also instructs drivers to drive safely in sunny conditions, warning: "If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop."

Between them, these rules could impact drivers who drive without sunglasses in dazzling conditions, or who wear loose flip-flops that could become tangled in the car's pedals.

Breaking these rules could result in a on-the-spot fine of £100 - or a fine of up to £5,000, if the driver challenges and loses the fine in court.

Road rage and the law

If we’re being honest, this is something we’ve all experienced to some degree - feeling impatient, frustrated or angry at other road users. But you may not realise that expressing those feelings in a, shall we say 'explicit way', is against the law.

If you’re caught swearing, making obscene hand gestures, shouting or honking your horn at other drivers, you could face fines of up to £1,000 under the Crime and Disorder Act of 1998.

By the way, it’s also illegal to push into a queue of traffic or drive too close to the car in front, also known as tailgating.

Bonus reading 📚
Changes to the Highway Code were introduced in 2022. Do you know the new rules? Learn more

Splashing pedestrians

On rainy days, seeing a pedestrian getting soaked by a motorist driving through a puddle is a bit of a cliché - but one that often happens.

It’s pretty ugly behaviour if done on purpose - and it’s also illegal. Seen as careless and inconsiderate driving under the Road Traffic Act 1998, you could risk a £5,000 fine and as many as three penalty points on your licence.

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Playing the radio too loudly in your car

Driving along with tunes blasting and windows down is something most of us love.

However, under the The Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986, this is a potential distraction to you and other road users.

It can also prevent drivers from hearing emergency sirens - so make sure you don’t ‘cause any excessive noise’ by playing music too loudly.

Perhaps a bit more strangely, this act also prohibits using your engine when stationary, meaning that if you have stopped to pick someone up, you must, by law, switch your engine off. The only exception is if you’re stuck in traffic.

There’s no rule against playing music at a reasonable volume, though. Here’s a list of our favourite driving songs for that next road trip - just don’t turn it up to 11!

Dirty number plates

Did you know that it’s illegal to have dirty number plates? If your plates are covered with dirt, snow, or anything else that obscures them, you’re breaking the law. Speed cameras and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) devices must be able to log your vehicle’s plate and to prevent this is illegal.

Early in 2022, new number plate rules were introduced. Harder-to-recognise fonts, including 3D lettering and background colours were banned, so make sure your plate isn’t breaking the law.

(Did you know: in Russia, you are breaking the law if any part of your car is dirty, and if you want to clean your car in France, you’re not permitted to wash it in the street.)

Driving with snow on your roof

If we’ve had a snowy day, it’s common sense to remove the built-up snow from windows and windscreens, but if you don’t clear it off your vehicle’s roof, you could face a fine and penalty points added to your licence.

If you have to brake sharply, the snow could slip down, obscuring the windscreen, leaving you with no visibility and in a difficult situation.

Wintry weather can make things tricky on the road, so we’ve put together our top tips for driving in ice and snow.

Driving with snow on your car roof is against the law
Driving with snow on your car roof is against the law

Driving too slowly

We all know that breaking the speed limits is a punishable offence, but driving too slowly is also illegal.

If you’re caught driving too slowly or proceeding with too much caution, you could be considered a risk to other drivers.

By causing a build-up of traffic or encouraging drivers to take unnecessary risks, police could charge you with dangerous driving under the Road Traffic Act 1988.

In short: yes, that scene in Friends where Ross gets a ticket for driving too slowly isn’t too far-fetched!

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Asking for change when parking your car

Admit it, we’ve all arrived at a car park and realised we haven’t enough spare change for the meter.

Believe it or not, asking a passer-by for a spare pound coin is actually against the law.

Under the Vagrancy Act 1824, begging, which is technically what you are doing, is illegal, and although it’s unlikely you’ll be charged, it could happen. So, always have plenty of change in your vehicle when driving.

More reading 📖
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Parking facing the traffic at night

Did you know there are laws regarding which direction you park after dark? You have to park so that the rear of your vehicle faces the oncoming traffic so that their headlights pick up your rear reflectors.

Not doing so could result in a fine of up to £2,500, believe it or not.

If you park facing the traffic flow, your vehicle becomes a hazard as there are no front reflectors, making your vehicle almost invisible at night.

Road rage could land you in legal trouble so keep your cool
Road rage could land you in legal trouble so keep your cool

Advertising on your vehicle

According to the Metropolitan Streets Act 1867, it’s illegal to advertise any business on your car. Unlikely to be enforced as it’s such an old piece of legislation, it’s still technically breaking the law to drive a sign-written car or van.

And that’s our 10!

You didn’t think you’d get away without a plug though, did you?

The number one law you need to obey when driving starts before you even get behind the wheel: making sure you’ve got car insurance. Whether you’re only going to be driving for an hour, or you’re planning out your new daily commute, you need to be covered.

Cuvva has temporary policies from 1 hour to 28 days, with no nasty deposits, hidden fees, or tie-ins.

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Updated on 15th June 2023