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Busted – common driving myths

Published: 05/04/2017

Busted – common driving myths 

We think these common driving misconceptions are worth a recap, so thanks to the RAC for their info and advice: 

Is it illegal to eat and drive?

No. It’s not illegal to eat and drive at the same time. However, if you present a significant danger while snacking on the move, the police could prosecute you for careless driving if they consider you not in proper control of the vehicle.

A Leeds University study found that motorists who ate while driving were actually 44% slower than usual.

Is it illegal to drink when driving?

Similar to eating, drinking at the wheel is not illegal, but it can carry the same careless driving penalty.

The same Leeds University study found that those who took a sip of drink at the wheel were 22% slower and 18% more likely to show erratic lane control.

Is smoking while driving illegal?

Smoking at the wheel is not an offence in itself, but if it leads to careless driving it could land you in trouble with the law.

Smoking in a car that is carrying under 18s, however, was made illegal in England as of 1 October 2015.

This is still a contentious issue, however, because while health campaigners welcomed the legislation, it was uncovered in a Freedom of Information request last year that the law is not being enforced by the majority of police forces. 

Is it illegal to have a light on in a car while driving?

There is no law against this. However, if a police officer pulls you over and adjudges your interior light to be a driving distraction they have the right to tell you to turn it off.

Is it illegal to have open alcohol in a car?

No. In some American states it is, but in England 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.

The only alcohol and driving laws relate to the UK drink-driving laws where drivers can only drive if they are under the national drink-drive limit. It is however, illegal to drink alcohol in a car while supervising a learner driver.

Is it illegal to drive with headphones on?

Whilst there is no specific law that says it is illegal to drive while wearing headphones, it is highly inadvisable. It could in fact come under such driving offences as driving without due care and attention and careless driving, should a police officer deem it so.

Listening to very loud music through headphones could be very distracting and it could render you unable to hear traffic warnings or even ambulance sirens.

If a speed camera doesn’t flash does it mean I’ve not been caught?

The short answer is no.

There are many different variations of speed camera but only the Gatso type flash to take a picture of you speeding – others catch you using infra red light while travelling towards the unit.

Are you allowed to drive 10 percent over the speed limit?

No. While many vehicles’ speedometers allow a 10% 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.

The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) suggests police 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 2mph for speedometer error. But this is only a suggestion, they aren't the ones who enforce the law. Ultimately the level of discretion a police officer decides to use is his or her own.

How many drinks can I have and still drive?

It’s a common myth that men can have ‘a pint or two’ or women a large glass of wine 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. There are many factors to consider, it is not a cut-and-dry rule.

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. 

The best policy is to check with Flint before getting behind the wheel of another car. We can tell you what you're covered for, with any particular clauses or stipulations.


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