A huge proportion of drivers are lacking up-to-date understanding of common driving laws.

These are the findings of research carried out by Halfords. What is more, failure to comply can lead to fines and penalty points.

Ignorance is no excuse

More than 7,100 participants completed the Halfords Roadworthy quiz. The results revealed that:

  • 87% of drivers don’t know you can be fined up to £5,000 for splashing a pedestrian.
  • 83% of drivers don’t know the laws surrounding parking on pavements.
  • 80% of drivers don’t know the fine for driving without screen wash.
  • 75% of drivers think it is illegal to smoke e-cigarettes in a vehicle with children present.
  • 72% of drivers don’t know how much the fine is for a passenger throwing rubbish out the vehicle.
  • 73% of drivers don’t know having an under-inflated tyre will lead to a MOT fail.
  • 45% of drivers don’t know the penalty point fine for driving in a lane marked with X on a smart motorway.
  • 44% of drivers place a sat nav in the wrong place
  • 39% of drivers think learner drivers aren’t allowed on motorways.

In 2018, a change to the MoT rules came into force. These included failure for under-inflated tyres. Three-quarters (73%) of drivers admit to not knowing this new law, while more than a third (36%) don’t know the legal minimum tyre tread depth (1.6mm).

Furthermore, four in five (80%) drivers are unclear on the maintenance law surrounding screen wash. More than two-fifths (43%) of those quizzed thinks driving without screen wash isn’t an offence, when, in fact, it could lead to a £1,000 fine and three penalty points.

Young and innocent

Those with less than one year of driving experience are most likely (62%) to drive a car without screen wash. This is despite having supposedly studied the Highway Code as part of their theory test.

What about where to place a sat nav on the windscreen? It seems to be a common problem. Three in 10 (30%) drivers think the centre of the windscreen is the proper place to attach it, when, in fact, the law states it shouldn’t obstruct the drivers’ view of the road. Therefore, a sat nav should be fitted in the bottom right-hand of the windscreen. This maximises the drivers’ view of the road whilst allowing easy viewing of the route.

While at present it is only illegal to park on the pavement in London, 72% of drivers think it is against the law across the whole of the UK. However, splashing pedestrians is an offence anywhere in Britain. Driving through a puddle and splashing pedestrians ca et you a £5,000 fine. But 87% of drivers didn’t seem to know that.

Hazy ideas

In 2015, the Children and Families Act 2015 made smoking in cars with children illegal. More than half of drivers (54%) believe that it applies to e-cigarettes too. One in 10 (13%) think it is only illegal to smoke a cigarette with an under 16 present, but the law also applies to under 18s.

Smart motorways continue to raise issues. Nearly a quarter of drivers (24%) believe it’s okay to use the inside lane or hard shoulder if there is no speed limit showing above the highway. No, this is illegal. More than two-fifths (45%) of drivers don’t know you could be given three penalty points for driving in a lane marked with a red ‘X’ on a smart motorway. One in 10 (10%) drivers with less than one years’ driving experience believe that driving in a lane with a red X isn’t illegal at all.

Fast lane to fines

Two-fifths (39%) of drivers still think learner drivers aren’t allowed on the motorway. A quarter (24%) of drivers do know learner drivers can use the motorway, but don’t know under what circumstances. For instance, one in 10 (10%) think learners are allowed to go on the motorway after they pass their theory test. Likewise, 14% believe the same but after they pass their sixth driving lesson.

“As we introduce more driving laws, it’s becoming easier to fall behind. This is why everyone needs to read the latest version of the Highway Code,” says a spokesperson at Halfords. “Sometimes people break driving laws without even realising”.