It is said that driving is like riding a bike – you never forget how to do it. But still knowing how to drive after a few years of not getting behind the wheel, and remembering every motoring law and regulation are very different things. To help, we’ve put together a handy guide featuring the five things you might not know, to help you avoid getting fined or encountering any trouble on the road.
This essentially means that if you are pulled over and you are unable to identify yourself with ID – such as a driving licence – the officer has the right to give you a £1,000 fine on the spot and can even disqualify you from driving. Similarly, if you are sent a letter due to being caught breaking the law behind the wheel, such as speeding or driving through a red light, and you do not respond with the driver’s details, the owner of the vehicle can also face the same penalties.
Did you know that the year you passed your test could affect what vehicles you can drive? The different classifications are shown on the reverse of your driving licence, but as a rule of thumb, the below may help if you’re unsure.
If you passed your test before 1 January 1997, you're allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination of up to 8,250kg MAM (maximum authorised mass) and a minibus with a trailer over 750kg.
For insured younger drivers who passed their test on or after 1 January 1997, however, the rules are slightly different. You can drive vehicles with up to 3,500kg MAM and up to eight passenger seats. You are also permitted to tow a trailer that weighs up to 750kg.
However, you are permitted to tow heavier trailers, so long as the total MAM of the vehicle and the trailer isn't heavier than 3,500kg. To drive anything else, you’ll have to take and pass additional tests.
Before hopping behind the wheel, always check you are licenced to drive that particular category of vehicle.
You may think this is an obvious one, but some of the most common offenses occur because the driver or owner hasn’t maintained the vehicle properly, resulting in it becoming dangerous.
A few of the most common issues include:
Over-worn or bald tyres
Faulty or worn brakes
To ensure you don’t get caught out, it’s advised you check your vehicle every couple of weeks.
Careless driving is classified as driving without due care and attention, if (and only if) the way you drive falls below what would be expected of a competent and careful driver. Any of the below can fall into careless driving, according to the CPS, and could seriously affect your car insurance policy and increase your car insurance premiums:
Driving inappropriately close to another vehicle
Tuning a car radio, using a mobile phone, or lighting a cigarette where such behaviour avoidably distracts the driver
Flashing of lights to force other drivers in front to give way
Misuse of any lane to avoid queuing or to gain an advantage over other road users
Driving through a puddle causing pedestrians to be splashed
More serious than careless driving, dangerous driving carries, understandably, much harsher penalties. However, understanding what constitutes dangerous driving is where many drivers fall down.
The Road Traffic Act 1988 defines dangerous driving as when “driving falls far below the standard expected of a competent and careful driver and it would be obvious that driving in that way would be dangerous”, and covers incidents such as:
Driving too fast
Ignoring traffic lights or road signs
Distracted driving, such as while reading a map, tuning a car radio or talking to passengers
As a driver, you are responsible for ensuring that you and your vehicle are safe to drive and fully roadworthy at all times. If you have doubts at any point, it’s always best to not travel or pull over to rectify the situation.
Joel Kempson, Car Insurance Expert at Uswitch, comments: “When you think of penalty points and careless or dangerous driving, you might think of causing accidents, excessive speeding, and driving uninsured, but it isn’t always as clear as that.
Drivers can face points, and even harsher penalties, for anything that can be deemed to be taking your attention away from the road, plus failing to identify yourself when asked.”
If you’re looking for car insurance, compare car insurance providers here.