Do you consider yourself a rule-abiding citizen and a good driver? Even if you take care at the wheel, you may be accidentally breaking the rules in the Highway Code, or breaking the law without knowing it. 

Make sure you’re up-to-date with the most recent highway code changes so you don’t get any surprises and avoid breaking the rules of the road. If you’re not sure of the current rules, you could inadvertently put you or others in danger; as well as invalidate your insurance.

Did you know that offences such as driving without due care and attention can result in between three and nine points on your ? To help ensure you’re clued up on the rules, you can find out about changes to Highway Code by signing up to email alerts from the DVSA.

Here is our checklist of 17 rules of the road drivers may not be aware of:

1. Use your fog lights properly

You must not use fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced, the Highway Code warns. This generally means when you can’t see for more than 100 metres. And you must switch them off when visibility improves to avoid dazzling other road users. Misuse of fog lights can result in a fine of £30.

2. Be careful how you park at night

The Highway Code states you mustn’t park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow, unless in a recognised parking space.

3. New rules at junctions

A recent change to the Highway Code means that at a junction, drivers should give way to pedestrians crossing or waiting to cross a road that they’re turning into. Previously, vehicles had priority in these situations.

Additionally, the update urges drivers and motorcyclists against cutting across cyclists when turning into or out of a junction or changing direction or lane.

4. Don’t sleep in your car while drunk

You’re not breaking the law if you sleep in your car (unless you are driving of course). But if snoozing while intoxicated, even with the engine switched off, you could still be prosecuted for being “drunk in charge of a motor vehicle”.

5. Opening your car door

Drivers are also being told to use the ‘Dutch Reach’ when they open their door. Typically, people use their hand closest to the car door to open it, without looking outside to check for cyclists or pedestrians. But with the Dutch Reach, you reach across your body to open the car door with your inside hand. This forces your body to swivel, giving you better visibility of bikes and traffic.

6. Don’t let your dog stick its head out of the window

The Highway Code states that animals should be suitably restrained when travelling in a vehicle. But research from car brand Ford, published in 2019, showed one in three dog-owning drivers don’t do so [1].

7. No profit-making lifts

While you can accept money from friends or family towards the cost of fuel, you could invalidate your car insurance policy if you seek to make a profit from giving someone a lift. 

8. Beware splashing pedestrians

It is illegal to splash a pedestrian with water from the road. According to law firm Slater and Gordon, in a few cases people have been handed tickets for public order offences after deliberately driving through puddles to target pedestrians.

9. Stay with your car while defrosting

Many people leave their car running while they do something else, for example to defrost it on freezing mornings before work. But you mustn’t leave your motor unattended with the engine running. It is against the law and could also leave you open to opportunist thieves.

10. Keep your number plate clean

You could be fined up to £1,000 if you drive with incorrectly displayed number plates. That includes plates obstructed by dirt, so good to check there’s no mud you’ve forgotten about!

11. Keep your screen wash topped up

This is one you could easily miss. Did you know it is illegal to not have fluid in a vehicle's screen washer bottle? And you could face a fine of several hundreds of pounds.

12. Fit your sat-nav correctly

Another one you might not be aware of is it's illegal to stick a dashboard camera, sat-nav or mobile phone inside the area cleared by your windscreen wipers. Research commissioned by insurance specialist Rias revealed that 50% of drivers surveyed didn't know this was the case. Perhaps a rule we’re more familiar with is that it’s also against the law to use an unfixed mobile phone as a sat-nav. Make sure you use a proper holder that sticks to your dashboard.

13. Stick to a 30mph speed limit as standard

If there is street lighting, and no signs to the contrary, then the default speed limit is 30mph. The lights mean you are in an urban area. You’ll also reduce your fuel consumption, so it’s a win-win.

14. Driving too slowly can be dangerous

Like speeding, driving too slowly can also be dangerous to other drivers. Doing so without good cause is an offence. This is especially important on motorways - in 2013, the police were given new powers to issue penalties for incidents such as middle-lane hogging. The Highway Code states “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.” 

15. Be careful if you need a snack or a change of music

A survey by the AA in 2021 revealed over half (52%) drivers admit to eating at the wheel, while 17% admitted to smoking while driving. [2]

It is not an offence in itself, to smoke, eat or change the radio station whilst driving. But you could commit the offence of driving without due care and attention, or of not being in proper control of the vehicle. For example, a man was fined by the Police, after they claimed he had both hands off the wheel, steering with his elbows, as he ate a cheesecake – a slightly extreme example but he got distracted and created a potentially dangerous situation.

16. Barefoot is legal, but keep control

Perhaps surprisingly, it is not illegal to drive in the UK without shoes on, as long as you can operate the controls safely. However, as the RAC warns, if you do so with wet feet, for example, you might be putting yourself, your passengers and other road users at risk by not being able to drive the car safely, which is illegal.

17. Clear snow from your roof

It doesn’t snow very often in the UK and there is no law stating it is illegal to drive with snow on your roof. However, the Highway Code states that you must "remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users". Otherwise, it could cause a hazard and you could be penalised – with a fine and three points added to your licence – for offences such as 'driving without due consideration' or 'using a motor vehicle in a dangerous condition'.

These changes are among dozens that are expected to be made on 29th January 2022, subject to parliamentary approval. You can see a full list of all of the planned changes on the government website.

1- https://media.ford.com/content/fordmedia/feu/ch/de/news/2019/01/31/1-in-3-dog-owning-drivers-put-themselves--passengers-and-other-r.html

2- https://www.theaa.com/about-us/public-affairs/aa-yonder-driver-poll-summaries-2021

For more tips and guidance on staying safe on the roads, read more on Solved.