Debunking UK Driving Laws

UK driving laws can be difficult to understand. Remember as a child when your parents would remind you to keep the lights off inside the car as it was illegal to drive with them on? Well, do we have some news for you… 

UK car laws

We’ve pulled together research alongside expert commentary to debunk some of the UK’s commonly misconstrued driving laws, letting Brits know once and for all where they stand (never on the hard shoulder, right?). On the flip side, we’ve also looked into the driving laws that you may not know existed. Ever used your phone to pay for a drive-through meal? Yep, that’s illegal!

Finally, by looking at what people are searching for online, we’ve launched an investigation into which UK cities have the most confused drivers. Data here was collected July 2021.

The hidden UK driving laws you didn’t know existed 

UK driving laws

Have you ever given a friend a lift and taken money from them, perhaps to cover petrol? If so, we’re afraid to say that you were actually breaking the law. Known as ‘taxi touting’, it is an offence that both licensed and unlicensed taxi drivers can fall foul of. It could land you a fine of up to £2,500 – perhaps best just to give them a lift as a favour next time!

Under rule 57 of the Highway Code, when in a vehicle, dogs or other animals should be suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving, or injure you or themselves if you stop quickly. If you are seen to be driving without due care and attention, you could face getting 3 to 9 points on your licence. 

Another important law to know about is how to display your number plates. Personalised plates and the demand for customisation have been on the rise. However, whether you’re choosing a new font, icons or different sizing, you must follow the rules and regulations. 

According to Government rules, you cannot rearrange the letters or numbers of your registration, or alter them so that they’re hard to read. You could be fined up to £1,000 and your vehicle will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates – not worth the risk if you ask us! 

Jack Evans, Motoring Journalist at Blackball Media comments, “with drivers facing a fine of up to £5,000 for splashing pedestrians or receiving three penalty points if found to be driving with snow on their car’s roof, there’s a real incentive to make sure you’re aware of some of the lesser-known motoring laws. 

“There are plenty of hidden driving rules that can easily catch the everyday driver out. Keeping up to speed with these laws can be the difference between a clean driving licence or penalty points – so it’s well worth getting clued up. Even the most experienced of drivers could benefit from finding out about these hidden driving laws, so get brushed up today.

Everything you need to know about driving lessons

Common misconceptions debunked

  • You can have an interior light on when driving
  • You are allowed to drive with no shoes on
  • You are allowed to drive with headphones in
  • If a speed camera doesn’t flash, does that mean I’ve not been caught? Only Gatso cameras flash, meaning you can still be caught speeding by infrared cameras 
  • It is not illegal to drive in flip flops. You must however be able to use the car in a ‘correct manner’

From driving in flip flops to ‘getting away with’ speeding, we’ve taken a look at some commonly misunderstood laws to answer the question of what’s legal.

While you do run the risk of being stopped for driving without due care and attention, it is actually perfectly legal to drive either in heels, flip-flops or even without shoes, (not that we recommend it). Rule 97 of the Highway Code states that clothing and footwear should not prevent you from using the controls in the correct manner. When behind the wheel, it’s crucial that you remain focused and in control at all times, so it’s best to wear clothing and footwear that won’t distract you or get in the way. 

Have you always thought that a speed camera would flash if you were breaking the limit? It turns out that’s not always the case. We discovered that in fact only one brand of speed camera – Gatso – will flash when triggered by a speeding driver. The minimum penalty for speeding is £100 in fines and 3 points added to your licence – a risk not worth taking at any time. 

We asked Peter Brabin, Head of Training at Billplant Driving School to share his expert knowledge on these misconceptions.

“There is an incredibly common myth that you are not allowed to drive with an interior light on, one that many people believe well into their adult years. It seems to stem from parents wanting to keep the interior light off when they’re driving with children in the car – presumably with the hope that they’ll cause less distractions or take a nap!

“There is nothing in The Highway Code however that states you cannot drive with an interior light on within your vehicle. That being said, it can also be considered a distraction to other road users, so if you are driving in the dark with an interior light on, it’s possible you may be pulled over and asked to turn it off by the police.”

Commenting on whether or not it is illegal to drive in flip flops, Peter says;

“Flip flops are largely considered flimsy and are therefore considered impractical footwear for managing any type of vehicle. But while they’re not ideal as your foot could very well slip out of the flip flop or off the pedals, it is not illegal to drive wearing them, no matter what your parents and friends may tell you.

“If you’re ever unsure, it never hurts to have a solid, sturdy pair of shoes in the car to drive in, which you can change out of once you’ve arrived at your destination.”

Once again, as mentioned above, Rule 97 of the Highway Code states footwear should not prevent you from using the controls of a car in the correct manner. Therefore it is important to choose appropriate footwear when driving. 

Although these laws aren’t illegal, they could still be seen as a breach of the Highway Code and therefore shouldn’t be implied as carrying no possible repercussions. We recommend that drivers be as safe as possible and take precautions when stepping behind the wheel. 

The most confused drivers by city

Most confused drivers
*Ranked by search volume for ‘driving laws’, ‘weird driving laws’ and ‘uk driving laws’ MyPoseo 

Using search volume data, we looked into which UK cities are the most confused when it comes to driving laws. Searching for terms such as ‘driving laws’, ‘weird driving laws’ and ‘uk driving laws’, we found these results. The results show search volumes per city and aren’t relative to each cities size. 

We discovered that Birmingham is home to the most confused drivers, followed by North West rivals Manchester and Liverpool. 

Kingston upon Hull ranks as having the most knowledgeable drivers, with the fewest queries relating to driving laws over a 12-month period – something definitely worth honking their horns over!

The most frequently asked driving questions

While we were digging into each city’s search history, we also looked at Google’s ‘People Also Ask’ feature to find out the UK’s most frequently asked questions about driving laws. 

The results show that we can’t wait to get on the road, with most questions relating to the driving age:  

RankQuestion askedAverage search volume (July)
1How long can you drive without a break?336
2Can a 17 year old drive with passengers?188
3Is driving in the UK hard?188
4Can you be 17 and drive?148
5When can you legally drive in the UK?138
6What is rule 97 of the Highway Code?87
7What are the new driving laws in 2021?50

So whether you’re unsure if you should be driving in flip flops or you think you’re doing a good deed by warning other drivers of speed cameras, it is paramount that you stick to the law when driving in the UK.

For more useful advice, take a look at our driving guides.



Data collected July 2021.

We’ve looked into UK driving laws that you may not have known existed to raise awareness for drivers, while also creating an interesting article. We’ve also debunked some common misconceptions about the Highway Code, showing that many things thought to be illegal are in fact perfectly legal.

Using search volume, we found which of the most populated UK cities have the most confused drivers, searching for key terms such as ‘uk driving laws’, ‘driving laws’ and ‘weird driving laws’. We then recorded the results over the past 12 months.

When locating the Google search volume, we also looked at the ‘People Also Ask’ feature to find the UK’s most searched-for questions around driving laws. This data was taken from the search results of July 2021.

Data pointDescriptionSources 
UK Law1. Rule 57
When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars
UK Law2. If a person—
(a)drives or attempts to drive a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, or
(b)is in charge of a motor vehicle on a road or other public place, after consuming so much alcohol that the proportion of it in his breath, blood or urine exceeds the prescribed limit he is guilty of an offence
UK Law3. You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted.

The law still applies to you if you’re:
– stopped at traffic lights
– queuing in traffic
– supervising a learner driver
UK Law4. You MUST NOT use your horn:

– while stationary on the road
– when driving in a built-up area between the hours of 11:30pm and 7:00am except when another road user poses a danger.
Law CUR Reg 99′
UK Law5. Issue of fixed penalty notice: stationary idling offence
13. An authorised person who considers that a stationary idling offence has been committed may, in accordance with Part 7, issue a fixed penalty notice to the driver of the vehicle
UK Law6. Rule 248
You MUST NOT park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space,in%20a%20recognised%20parking%20space.
UK Law7. Swearing at other drivers while driving can be seen as anti-social behaviour and could mean you face up to £1,000 in fines under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
UK Law8. Taxi touting is illegal. It is an offence that both licensed and unlicensed taxi drivers can fall foul of. Touting for trade involves soliciting people in a public place to hire a vehicle to carry them as a passenger. For taxi drivers without a licence, it is an offence to solicit people in public or display the word ‘taxi’ on your vehicle. For licensed taxi drivers, it is an offence to transport a passenger who hasn’t booked through a licensed minicab operator
UK Law9. Lighting requirements 114 Highway Code

– use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders
– use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other road users (see Rule 226)
UK Law10. It’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle. You must have hands-free access, such as:
– a bluetooth headset
– voice command
– a dashboard holder or mat
– a windscreen mount
– a built-in sat nav

The device must not block your view of the road and traffic ahead
UK Law11. ​If any of your passengers are under the age of 18, it is illegal to smoke in the same car as them. If you have passengers in the car that wish to smoke, you are also responsible for them and could face a penalty
UK Law12. If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence
UK Law13. Rule 229

Before you set off:

– you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
– you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
– make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
– remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users
– check your planned route is clear of delays and that no further snow falls or severe weather are predicted.,or%20severe%20weather%20are%20predicted.
UK Law14. Number plates (also known as licence plates) must show your registration number correctly. You cannot rearrange letters or numbers, or alter them so that they’re hard to read.

You could be fined up to £1,000 and your vehicle will fail its MOT test if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates.
Common legal misconception 1. There’s no law against driving with interior lights on, but if a police officer decides your interior light is a driving distraction they could ask you to turn it off, or even charge you with careless driving.

And it doesn’t have to be a distraction for you, either.

If the light is judged to be dazzling or distracting to other road users, particularly those driving behind you, you may also be charged
Common legal misconception 2. Driving barefoot is not illegal, but again it’s not something that is advised.

The Driving Standards Agency states that suitable shoes are of vital importance whilst you’re behind the wheel. They don’t advise that anyone drives barefoot because you will not have the same braking force that you do whilst you’re wearing shoes. If you don’t have enough braking force this could result in a crash which could not only harm you but other drivers on the road
Common legal misconception 3. While there is no specific law that clearly states it’s not legal to drive while wearing headphones, it is highly inadvisable because it can be dangerous.

Not only could it see you charged with dangerous driving, loud music could also stop you from hearing emergency vehicle sirens, level crossing warnings, other road users and pedestrians approaching your vehicle
Common legal misconception  4. There are many different variations of speed camera, but only the Gatso type flash to take a picture of you speeding. Others catch you by using infra-red light.

While speed limits may vary from one road to the next, there is only one proven method to make sure you don’t get caught speeding: always know the speed limit of the road you’re on and stick to it

Common legal misconception  
5. Rule 97 of the highway code states that clothing and footwear should not prevent you using the controls of the car in the correct manner

Most populated UK cities
Most populated UK cities by region – top 5 taken

North West – Warrington replaced with 6th most populated city due to lack of data

South West – Swindon replaced with 6th most populated city due to lack of data

Search volume
08/07 Search terms: include ‘driving laws’, ‘weird driving laws’, ‘UK driving laws’. Each keyword term taken over the past 12 months and added together to give a total using Google search results
What UK drivers are askingThe most popular questions asked by Brits when addressing ‘driving laws’ in keywords using Google search results

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