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Expert Reveals the Truth About 7 Common Driving Myths

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It’s possible that at some point as a child, your parents told you that turning the car’s inside lights on while driving was a crime. However, you are not alone. 

The AA has revealed that Google searches for ‘Is it illegal to drive with interior lights on’ have increased by 222% in the UK in the last three months.

Here is what the UK’s largest motoring organisation, The AA, had to say about this driving myth: “It’s something which many people think is a fact, but there’s no law against driving with your interior lights on. But at night, it can distract or interfere with your vision by reflecting off the windscreen’s inside.”

If you’re pulled over, and it’s decided that your light was a probable cause in any bad driving, you can expect to get a careless driving charge.

Plenty of myths and misconceptions about what you can and can’t do while driving. The AA reminds drivers that obeying the Highway Code is the most important thing to remember on UK roads. 

While driving rules are constantly updated, it is important motorists understand the current regulations in place. Not only will this reduce unexpected fines or penalties from failing to comply, but it will also make UK roads safer.”

With this in mind, to help inform drivers, The AA has separated fact from fiction by debunking some of the most common driving myths.

UK’s most common driving myths

Is it illegal to eat and drive?

No, there’s no specific law against eating while driving. You won’t be immediately pulled over if you’re seen taking a bite out of food – unless that bite stops you from paying attention to the task. 

The AA’s poll found that 1 in 10 of us eat while we drive. If you do, make sure your eating habits don’t distract you behind the wheel. If the police think you aren’t in proper control, you can be charged with careless driving. This carries a maximum penalty of £5,000, three to nine points on your licence and a discretionary driving disqualification.

Is it illegal to drink soft drinks and coffee while driving?

Like eating, there’s no law against drinking a soft drink while driving if you aren’t distracted. So, keep the lid on if you’re driving with a hot coffee cup. Any sudden spills could be enough to cause you to lose control of the car, and you could end up with a careless driving fine and a burnt lap.

Is it legal to smoke and drive?

Smoking in any private vehicle with anyone under 18 present and in company vehicles or vans is illegal. If you use your private vehicle for business occasionally, you can smoke in it. You can’t if your work has given you the car for work. 

It’s not against the law to smoke in the car in any other circumstances, but the Highway Code specifically lists smoking as a distraction that can land you a careless driving charge.

Can I drive 10% over the speed limit without breaking the law?

Theoretically, you break the law if you drive even 1mph over the speed limit. But you won’t get a ticket because speedometers aren’t always 100% accurate, so police allow this. Plus, driving with your eyes glued to the speedo is unsafe. AA President Edmund King advises keeping your eyes on the road is better.

The National Police Chief’s Council recommends only giving a speeding ticket if you top the limit by 10% plus 2. So that would mean driving 35mph in a 30mph zone. However, this is up to individual police officers to decide, so there’s no guarantee they’ll let you off.

The best way to make sure you don’t get caught by a police officer or speed camera is to drive carefully and try to stick to the limit.

Is driving in heels, sliders, uggs or barefoot illegal?

When choosing which shoes you drive in, you need to be able to operate the pedals safely without your footwear – or lack of – making it difficult.

Rule 97 of the Highway Code clarifies that drivers must have “footwear and clothing which does not prevent (them) correctly using the controls.” So while it’s not illegal to drive in heels or sliders, you should drive in more sensible shoes and change when you get to your destination. 

Can listening to music too loud land me a fine?

Rule 148 of the Highway Code states that safe driving and riding needs concentration, so all distractions should be avoided. 

Listening to loud music is included as a potential distraction. Therefore, avoiding anything that could slow your reaction times and cause an otherwise avoidable accident is strongly recommended.

Can items dangling from my rear-view mirror fail my MOT?

Yes, they can. Obstruction of more than 4cm could land you with a failed MOT. But realistically, your mechanic will probably tell you to remove the item attached to your rear-view mirror before the MOT occurs.

Our survey revealed 5% of drivers had things dangling from their rear-view mirrors, which could create a blind spot.

Top five items spotted dangling in the windscreen

  • Air fresheners (mainly trees)
  • Teddy bears (from small to 1 foot in length)
  • Miniature footballs
  • Beads and rosary beads
  • Coats of arms (mainly football clubs)

A spokesperson for the AA commented:  “There are many myths and misconceptions around what you can and can’t do while driving. The AA reminds drivers that obeying the Highway Code is the most important thing to remember when on roads in the UK.”

“While driving rules are constantly updated, motorists must understand the current regulations. Not only will this reduce unexpected fines or penalties from failing to comply, but it will also make UK roads safer.”

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