9 Driving Offences That You Didn’t Know Carried Penalties

As a driver, it's your responsibility to practice safe driving and follow the law. When learning to drive you are taught the laws and obligations of being a safe driver.

When you become a more skilled driver, your experiences behind the wheel can help you make more informed decisions when out on the road. However, its not uncommon to get complacent about the driving laws and forget about the things you’ve learnt in your theory.  

Every now and then, it’s important for drivers to refresh their knowledge and keep up to date with any regulation changes.

There are many things we do as drivers that we may not realise break the law. Read on to discover what driving offences carry penalty points or fines and see whether you were unaware of any.  

What is a Driving Offence?

A driving offence is anything that breaks the law or rules set out in the Highway Code.

The UK parliament sets penalties for all road traffic offences. These are set to deter motorists from using unsafe practices. The severity of the offence reflects the penalty issued and can include:

  • Penalty points
  • Disqualification
  • Fines
  • Imprisonment
  • Vehicle confiscation

How long do penalty points last?

Penalty points stay on your licence for a minimum of two years and up to a maximum of 11, depending on the severity of the offence committed.

How many penalty points to lose your licence?

If a driver gets 12 or more penalty points within three years, they will be disqualified from driving for a minimum of six months. The length of disqualification will vary depending on the severity of the offences committed and any previous disqualifications. However, if you have not held your full driving licence for over two years different rules apply.

Your driving licence will be revoked if you get six or more penalty points within two years of passing your driving test. If this happens you will have to re-apply for a provisional licence and retake both your theory and practical test.

1.Driving with Pets

Dog in front car seat

If you need to take your dog along for a ride, you’ll need to ensure that both you, other passengers and your prize pooch are safe and secure.

For those who do not adequately restrain their pets when the vehicle is in motion, a fine and penalty points could be on the cards.

If your pet is causing a distraction when driving and you’re not in full control of the vehicle, you could be fined £1,000 and three penalty points. This could be changed to careless and inconsiderate driving, creating a significantly higher fine with three to nine penalty points issued on your licence.

Rule 57 of the highway code tells us:

“When in a vehicle make sure dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract you while you are driving or injure you, or themselves, if you stop quickly. A seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of restraining animals in cars.”

If your unlucky enough for your vehicle to breakdown on the motorway and you have a pet in tow, you must ensure your pet remains secured in the vehicle unless there’s an emergency. Failure to do so could result in breaking regulation 14 of The Motorways Traffic (England and Wales) Regulations 1982. This could see a fine of up to £2,500 and six penalty points on your licence.

2.Not Wearing Sunglasses During Sunny Weather

Although it’s not mandatory to wear sunglasses when driving, if you don’t wear them when its sunny, you could land yourself in penalty points and a fine.

Rule 237 of the highway code states:

“If you are dazzled by bright sunlight, slow down and if necessary, stop.”

If you’re not wearing sunglasses, and the sun blinds your vision, you could end up with damaged property or even hurt another driver, passenger or pedestrian. The police would note this down as careless driving, something that carries an unlimited fine and three to nine penalty points. In severe cases you could even be given a discretionary disqualification.

3.Using your Horn

Car Horn

We’ve all used our horn before, whether it’s to notify others of our presence or annoyance, but did you know rule 112 of the highway code specifies when your horn should not be used?

When are you not allowed to sound your horn?

  • To show aggression or indicate annoyance
  • When stationary in the road
  • When driving in a built-up area between 11:30pm and 7am, except when another road user poses danger

Penalty points are not issued for those contravening this rule, but drivers could see fines of between £30 to £1000 issued.

What should you use your horn for?

Your vehicle horn should only be used when your vehicle is moving, to warn other road users of your presence.

4.Flashing your Headlights

Heading up small or narrow roads, particularly when others are parked can often mean there is only enough room for traffic to head in one direction at a time. Quite often other motorists use their headlights to signal to other road users that they are giving way.

Flashing your headlights to give way could land you in a fine of up to £1000.

Flashing your headlights to let other motorists know of speed cameras is also illegal. It is seen as wilfully obstructing a constable in the execution of their duty, part of the Police Act 1996, and can see you facing up to a month in prison and a fine of £1,000.

When should you flash your headlights at other road users?

The highway code (section 110) tells us that we should only flash our headlights to let other road users know of our presence. You should not flash headlights to convey other messages including trying to intimidate others.

Section 111 of the Highway Code explains that we should “never assume flashing headlights are a signal inviting you to proceed”.  This acts as a warning to drivers in the aim of preventing accidents.

5.Parking Your Car Against the Flow of Traffic at Night

Parked cars

Not all of us are lucky enough to have a driveway. After a hard day at work, we usually just pull up in the first space we find and head into the house to relax.

According to rule 248 of the Highway Code, you must not park on a road at night facing the opposite direction of traffic flow, unless it is in a recognised parking space.

Police could charge you with careless and inconsiderate driving, carrying a fine of £1,000 and three to nine penalty points added to your licence. 

In certain circumstances, if it’s believed to be severe, you could see your fine increase and potentially a temporary driving ban put in place.

Find out more about how parking on the pavement can land you with a fine in our ‘Parking Rules Explained’ article.

6.Swearing at Other Drivers

It’s easy to use lewd gestures or fowl language towards other road users when you feel they are in the wrong, however, doing so could land you in trouble.

Threatening individuals using abusive or insulting language is a criminal offence under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998. It is seen as disorderly conduct and faces a fine of up to £1,000.

For those using hand gestures, it is seen as failure to have full control of your vehicle and faces a fine of £1,000 with three penalty points.

7.Goods Vehicle Driver Speed Limit Variations

Every driver knows they must abide by certain speed limit laws that vary depending on the location and type of road. But, are you aware that national speed limits differ depending on the type of vehicle you are driving?

For example, on a motorway, cars, motorcycles and car derived vans must adhere to a speed limit of 70 miles per hour. In comparison, busses over 12 metres in length, and certain goods vehicles are limited to 60mph.

If you are caught exceeding the speed limit, it may land you with a fine, penalty points or even a driving ban.

Learn more about the consequences of not adhering to the speed limit in our ‘UK Speed Limits And Fines’ article here.

8. Driving with Snow on the Car

car covered in snow

Driving with snow on your roof is not an illegal offence, but it can be classed as driving without due care and attention. If you’re caught, police could charge you with a fine of £60 and three penalty points on your driving licence.

This is due to the risk of snow sliding off your roof and falling onto the windscreen. If this happens, it may obscure your view or fall onto the road – making it very unsafe, not only for yourself, but for other road users too.

Section 229 of the Highway Code stipulates that:

  • Clear all ice from your windows as you must be able to see
  • Remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users

9.Securing Your Dash Cam in The Correct Position

Many of us are investing in dash cams to protect ourselves and our vehicles. Dash cams are legal on UK roads and footage can even be used in court, providing testimony to accidents and damage caused by other road users.

When installing your dash cam, you must ensure that your view of the road is not obstructed. Failure to adhere to this could result in a fine of £1,000 and three penalty points.

There really is a lot to remember as a road user and its easy to see why so many of us get confused. To find out more about the Highway Code and road safety, visit here.