True or false: you’re driving illegally. Five quick questions on UK motoring law.

police car
Do you get twitchy when he’s in your rear view mirror?

Plenty of driving practices are very obviously illegal. Averaging 100mph in a 30 zone, for example. Wearing a blindfold at the wheel. Firing a crossbow at other vehicles. Or all three simultaneously.

However, there are others that many drivers are less certain about. What about drinking a coffee when you’re driving, or making a hands-free call? Lots of us are just not that clear on what the law says.

And with that in mind, we’ve put together five conundrums about driving legally in the UK. Most people we’ve spoken to get at least one wrong — let’s see how you do.

1. True or false: it’s illegal to drive with the interior light on.


Most drivers are under the impression that it’s illegal to drive with the interior light on, but actually, there’s no law against it. However, if a police officer tells you to turn it out, don’t argue the toss. If, in their judgement, the light is a distraction, you’re obliged to follow their decision.

2. True or false: it’s illegal to eat and drive.

False — sort of.

There’s no law per se that forbids you eating whilst driving. But if your moveable feast means that you’re not in proper control of the vehicle, that’s a different matter. And it’s the police who determine what proper control means.

Overall, it’s probably best to leave that Spaghetti Bolognese until you’re home.

By the way, it’s the same story for drinking a non-alcoholic beverage at the wheel, or smoking. Both are legal, but it all comes down to context, and whether you’re judged to be in complete control of the vehicle.

3. True or false: it’s legal to make a hands-free call when you’re driving.


But “hands free” means exactly that. If you have to touch your mobile phone at any stage, that’s illegal, and you could face a hefty fine and points on your licence. Furthermore, if you’re involved in an accident and your ‘hands-free’ call turns out to have involved fiddling with your phone, things could get very serious.

The legalities aside, there are good reasons for avoiding hands-free calls when you’re on the move. A recent study by Sussex University found that they are just as distracting as hand-held phone conversations, and far more distracting than talking to a passenger.

4. True or false: it’s legal to drive wearing headphones.


It’s pretty incredible, really, considering plenty of headphone designs are great at sealing us off from the outside world.

In theory, that means a driver could be legally headbanging along to 100 Greatest Driving Tunes, oblivious to cyclists yelling warnings, drivers beeping, emergency vehicles approaching, and so on. It’s pretty alarming.

Fortunately, there’s a big however. As with most of these rules, the police do have some leeway.  If headphones mean that — in their judgement — you’re driving carelessly, or without due care and attention, you can still be prosecuted.

5. True or false: it’s legal to drive up to 10 percent over the speed limit.


The National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) issues guidelines on speeding to UK police forces. These recommend that police don’t prosecute if drivers are less than 10% over the applicable speed limit. This recognises the limits of driver concentration and the accuracy of speedometers.

But these are recommendations, not guarantees. Ultimately, the police have the right to prosecute for even very minor transgressions. If you’re driving at 61 mph in a 60 zone, you are breaking the law. It’s unlikely you’ll be prosecuted, but don’t bank on it.

How did you do?

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True, of course. Contact us today!

This article is for entertainment purposes and does not constitute legal advice.