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A Dozen Driving Myths Debunked!

3 Feb 2020

1. I can go through a red light if it is to let through an emergency vehicle

It can be alarming when an emergency vehicle with sirens comes speeding up behind you. Most drivers move out of the way as quickly as possible, but going through a red light in order to do so is strictly illegal.


Rule 219 of the Highway Code states that ‘drivers must take appropriate action to allow emergency vehicles to pass, while complying with all traffic signs. Failure to do this could result in an on-the-spot fine and three points’.


2. If a speed camera does not flash, I have not been caught

Unfortunately, no flash does not guarantee no conviction. In fact, only a handful (most notably the classic Gatso) of speed camera types in the UK flash upon catching a speeding motorist. Many others use infra-red to determine your speed and you can therefore be convicted of speeding, resulting in points, without seeing any flash.


3. It is illegal to eat and drink at the wheel

Whether it is a chocolate bar on the way to work or a coffee on your commute down the A19, most people will have eaten or drank behind at the wheel at some point.

Many motorists however, have believed it to be illegal to consume anything when in control of their vehicle. It is not illegal however, it is advised against as rule 148 of the Highway Code states: ‘Safe driving and riding needs concentration. Avoid distractions such as eating and drinking’. You may be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention (careless driving) if an incident occurs while you are eating and drinking at the wheel.


4. It is illegal to have an interior light on while driving

This is not illegal, but if the light is deemed a distraction, police officers are well within their rights to ask you to turn it off, and if you refuse, you could receive a fine.


5. I cannot use my phone as a sat-nav

Since 2017, behind-the-wheel mobile phone usage has resulted in £200 on-the-spot fine and six points. However, many drivers are unsure whether they can use their mobile as a makeshift sat-nav.

The answer to this is yes, although, the phone must be in a fixed position – either to the dashboard or windscreen – and cannot block your view of the road. The usual phone-related punishments will be administered if you do not meet these criteria.


6. It is illegal to have open alcohol in the car

It’s not illegal for passengers to enjoy an alcoholic drink on the move, but it is not recommended. This is because having all occupants of a car alert and attentive can help reduce the likelihood of an accident.

It is worth noting, however, that if you are supervising a learner driver, the usual drink driving laws still apply, as do phone-related restrictions.


7. I can have one drink and still drive

The law states that in England and Wales, the alcohol limit for drivers is 80mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood – in Scotland it’s 50mg per 100ml.

Your weight, metabolism, gender, and what you have eaten that day all has a bearing on how much you can drink before reaching, and going over, the limit. In short, some people can have one drink, whereas other cannot. However, our advice would be to never drink and drive.


8. It’s illegal to have earphones in while driving

Some people use headphones to listen to music because their vehicle does not have the latest in Bluetooth connectivity, or even an AUX-in socket.

This is yet another myth that is not strictly illegal, however, it is not recommended as blocking out exterior noises, such as car horns and motorbikes, can massively increase the risk of an accident.


9. Fully comprehensive insurance covers me to drive anything

In many cases, drivers with fully comp insurance are covered to drive another vehicle with the blessing of the owner. However, if you’re under 25, have any previous motoring convictions or the vehicle you’re intending to drive is unusual – extremely rare, very powerful, etc – there’s a chance you will not be covered.

In such a situation, all laws regarding uninsured driving apply. It is therefore suggest always checking with your insurance provider first.


10. It’s illegal to drive in socks or flip flops

Contrary to common belief, driving without shoes is in fact not illegal. Nor is driving in flip flops, provided you can use the controls effectively.

However, rule 97 of the Highway Code states that ‘drivers must have footwear and clothing which does not prevent (them) using the controls in the correct manner’.

11. It’s legal for me to break the speed limit when overtaking

Despite what you might have heard, it is illegal to break the speed limit while passing another car. If you are caught doing so while overtaking, the usual fines and points will apply.


12. You can't drive too slowly

Speeding accounted for 85% of all motoring offences in 2018, with 2.1 million tickets issued across the nation.

However, driving too far below the limit can also warrant punishment, namely an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three points on your licence. Despite this, there are currently no legally enforced minimum speed limits on UK motorways, therefore what speed is deemed too slow is down to the discretion of the officer that pulls you over.


If you have received points for any motoring offence, such as those mentioned above, you should also be aware of the ‘totting up’ provisions. If you receive 12 points on your driving licence, you will be disqualified from driving for usually 6 months, unless you can persuade the Court otherwise, which usually requires a special reasons argument of exceptional hardship.


Should you have any issues regarding driving offences please visit our website at or contact Jonathan Stirland or Terri Leigh on (0191) 232 0283 or by email: or





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Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited is a private limited company registered in England and Wales under company number 10572065, authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority No 637150.

Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited is a private limited company constituted and run in accordance with the provisions of the Companies Act 2006. The term “partner” has been used to denote individual senior solicitors employed by Short Richardson and Forth Solicitors Limited.