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The most-googled ‘Is it illegal to drive with...’ questions answered

The motoring experts here at Uswitch have investigated the most-googled ‘is it illegal to ... while driving’ questions drivers have asked this year, to try and shed some light on what not to do on the road. Listing all the top asked questions around this subject, we will explain the rules behind each one.

Officer giving woman a ticket in a black car.

Is it illegal to drive with an expired driving licence?

Knowing when your licence is set to expire is important for drivers as it is illegal to drive without a valid one. There can be some hefty punishments for driving with an expired licence, and it can land you a fine of up to £1,000 and between three and six penalty points on your licence.

Your car could be seized, while vehicles of persistent offenders can even be crushed or disposed of by the police – so make sure you don’t get behind the wheel if your license is expired. You can quickly check the expiry date of your licence. The date is displayed on the card under section 4b.

Is it illegal to drive with bare feet?

This is one of the most popular questions around the subject of driving, but it is not illegal to drive a vehicle barefoot if you can still safely operate the vehicle. However, suitable shoes are always recommended for driving so you can competently operate the pedals.

Driving barefoot carries the risk of you not having proper grip on the pedals. So although you will not face a fine or punishment for this, your car insurance could be voided if an accident was linked to your bare feet. It’s always safer to drive in suitable footwear.

Is it illegal to drive in certain footwear?

Similarly to the previous question, no footwear is illegal to drive in, so long as it's safe to do so. However, it is not recommended to drive in flip flops or sandals for safety reasons, as they do not provide secure grip or control. This type of footwear can easily slip off the foot, making them far from ideal for safety.

Footwear guidelines for driving are:

  • Don’t wear a sole thicker than 10mm

  • Don’t wear a sole that is too thin or soft

  • Wear a sole that provides enough grip with no slipping on the pedals

  • Wear shoes that do not limit ankle movement or are too heavy

  • Make sure your footwear is not too clunky, so they only touch one pedal at a time

Is it illegal to drive with one headlight?

Driving without proper working headlights is illegal. Although you may feel that one headlight is enough to see on the road, you are at risk of driving with no visibility if the other goes out whilst you are in motion.

If you drive with one headlight you will be pulled over by the police and they will hand you a fixed penalty notice fine of £100. This will not add points to your licence, but is intended as a warning to fix your headlights. If this offence is challenged in court the fine could rise to £1000.

According to the Highway Code, "lights, indicators, reflectors, and number plates MUST be kept clean and clear". Driving with correctly working lights is for your own safety and that of other drivers, so before setting off on the road make sure to check your lights are working.

Is it illegal to drive without a shirt?

This is not illegal. Driving shirtless should not hinder your freedom of movement or driving ability, though it may cause other drivers to take a second glance at you when you pass by.

There is a chance a police officer may stop you for indecent exposure, however this will depend on the situation. It is possible you could cause damage to your skin if you were to be involved in an accident, so it's likely to be safer to pop the air conditioning on or wind down the window when driving in the summer.

Is it illegal to drive without MOT?

In most cases, yes this is illegal. If you are caught by police, you can be handed a fine of up to £1,000. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems are now commonplace and can identify vehicles driving without an MOT, so it is difficult to go unnoticed. The only cases in which this is not illegal, is if you are driving your vehicle to a booked MOT test or driving to or from a garage for vehicle repairs. In these scenarios, it is important to carry proof of booking with you, so that if you are pulled over you could show this proof to the police to avoid a fine.

Driving without an MOT can also be a danger to you and other drivers. As MOT tests validate your car as road-safe, if you do not get your MOT checked then your vehicle could be a danger on the road. In this circumstance, penalties can become more severe. Fines can reach £2500, and three points on your licence will be awarded for each defect identified on your vehicle. Multiple defects could lead to you losing your licence all together, if you already have points on your licence.

Is it illegal to drive with headphones?

This is not illegal, but it could still land you in trouble. Drivers might wear headphones to operate their phone hands-free or to listen to music, but doing this can lead to reduced awareness on the road.

The distraction of headphones can lead to many different dangerous situations, and you can still face a fine of £100 if deemed to be driving carelessly with headphones in. If your case goes to court then that fine can be increased to a maximum £5,000 and include up to nine penalty points, plus a possible driving ban.

Is it illegal to drive with loud music playing?

Most drivers have music playing through their car’s sound system to remain aware of surrounding noises. This is likely to be safer than using headphones.

Playing loud music is usually not illegal, but it can still land you a penalty. According to the Highway Code, loud music that is deemed a distraction can result in a £100 fine and three points on your licence. In more extreme circumstances, if you have music so loud that it hinders your awareness, you can be hit with a £5,000 fine and possibly a driving ban.

Is it illegal to drive without a spare tyre?

You do not have to carry a spare tyre with you on the road, but there are rules to follow if you do choose to. Any tyre you do carry must comply with the tyre laws, just like the tyres that are already fitted on the vehicle. Spare tyres are usually stored in the boot of the car, but be aware that this may not be the case for all vehicles.

You must ensure the tyre pressure is suitable for driving and that the tread depth meets the minimum requirement of 1.6mm across the central ¾ of the tyre width. If you are found driving on tyres that have tread lower than the legal minimum you can risk receiving up to 3 penalty points on your driving licence and a fine of £2,500 per illegal tyre. So, make sure your tyre is road safe when carrying it in the vehicle, otherwise it is useless to you if you do need to change your tyre on the road.

We hope this guide can clear up some questions around what is and what isn’t illegal on the road. We advise all drivers to be safe and double check information if you are unsure if it is allowed or not.

Joel Kempson, car insurance expert at Uswitch, says:

“There are lots of rules on the road that may seem ambiguous at first, but it is critical that drivers know what is and isn’t legal when driving.

Even some legal actions, like driving in flip-flops, can cause danger on the road too. It is important that drivers make the right decisions even before starting their journey. If you are unsure about whether something is legal, be sure to check before driving. These kinds of decisions can lead to fines, points on your licence, or even worse consequences such as injury.

If you are in doubt, always take the safest option.”