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10 motoring laws people forget or ignore

Carlton Boyce / 26 February 2016 ( 22 March 2019 )

Is it legal to send a text when you're stuck in traffic? Will you get in trouble for driving with snow on your car roof?

Stop sign
If you don’t come to a complete halt at a stop sign, even if the road is clear, you are breaking the law and could be given three penalty points on your licence

We’ve previously looked at the motoring laws that have been introduced since 2015 and some obscure motoring laws that might have escaped your attention, but what about those laws we all should know about but tend to forget over the years?

1. Fog lights

You should only use your car’s fog lights when visibility is “seriously reduced”. This is usually taken to mean when visibility is less than 100 metres, not a sprinkling of light mist when you first left home…

Tips for driving in mist and fog

2. Stop junctions

A ‘stop’ junction is an instruction to do just that: stop. If you don’t come to a complete halt, even if the road is clear, you are breaking the law and could be given three penalty points on your licence.

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3. Snow on your roof

While driving with snow on your roof isn’t a specific offence, if it slips over the windscreen or slides off your car into the path of another, it could leave the driver open to a charge of 'driving without due consideration' or 'using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition'.

Did you know you could be fined for hogging the middle lane?

4. Splashing pedestrians with puddles

Every pedestrian knows how infuriating it is to be drenched by a driver going through a puddle – but many of us don’t know you actually have the right to take their registration number and report them to the police. Their behaviour could count as careless driving – punishable by a fine of up to £5,000 or up to nine points on their licence.

5. Box junctions

You must only enter a boxed junction if your exit is clear. If it isn’t, then you are committing an offence. 

You are also breaking the law if part of your vehicle is inside the yellow box junction and your vehicle is stationary.

Nor is it a defence to enter a boxed junction where the exit isn’t clear to let an emergency services vehicle past you.

The only time you can enter a yellow box junction when your exit isn't clear is when turning right, and waiting for a gap in the oncoming traffic.

Have you heard about the petrol and rings scam?

6. Using a mobile phone

A survey by the RAC found 61% of drivers think it’s legal to send a text message on their mobile phone while their car is stationary and the engine is running, in a traffic jam, for example.

However, to remain within the law you must be safely parked, which is generally taken to mean that you should be parked in a genuine parking space, such as a layby, street-side parking space, or car park. 

A queue of traffic doesn’t meet the criteria, even if everyone is stationary.

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7. No road tax

Since the abolition of the paper tax disc, many motorists are confused about the law as it stands when it comes to buying and selling a car.

The seller must now ‘cash in’ the tax on the car, and the buyer must buy new car tax before he or she can drive the car on the public highway. It’s a simple matter to do it online but it does mean that it must be done before you drive your new car away.

Do you really have to pay parking tickets on private land?

8. Out-of-date driving licence

A lot of drivers don’t realise their photocard driving licence is only valid for 10 years and failing to update it could lead to a fine of up to £1,000. You can check the expiry date on yours by looking on the front in section 4b, although you should receive a reminder in the post.

Renewing it is easy, and can be done online, although it does cost £14.00.

Driving past 70: Renewing a driving licence and more

9. Driving in the middle or outside lane of the motorway

It is an offence to drive in the outside lane of a motorway when you are towing a trailer or caravan. The only exceptions are when you are overtaking an exceptionally wide vehicle, or if you are only doing so in an emergency situation.

It is also an offence to sit in the middle lane when the nearside lane is free, whether you are towing anything or not.

You could peruse this article on how to avoid getting a lane hog fine, but the short answer is simple: always pull back into the inside lane after overtaking someone!

Find out more about the laws on towing a caravan

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10. Leaving the engine running

If you leave your car’s engine running while you defrost your car in the street while you sip a hot coffee from the warmth of your kitchen on a cold morning, you are breaking the law.

You must be ‘in charge’ of your vehicle at all times when the engine is running; if you aren’t then you are risking a fine. If you leave your car, then the engine must be turned off and the handbrake must be on.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.