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Police Questions about Motoring

Even law-abiding motorists have genuine concerns about being targeted by the police - especially while driving on roads and highways.

FAQ of Motoring Laws

Information in this section explains some of the most common questions and answers about motoring laws in the United Kingdom.

Important: Please note the following information is meant to help motorists understand motoring laws and regulations in the United Kingdom. As such, road traffic laws are subject to change and we advise drivers and riders to contact the police for further clarification.

Accidents and Collisions

Can I Smoke in My Car with a Child?

In a nutshell, ‘no’ you cannot smoke in a car if there are children inside the vehicle. The legislation in England and Wales makes it illegal to smoke in any vehicle if children under the age of eighteen (18) are present.

As a result, this particular motoring rule helps to protect children and young people from the dangers of breathing second hand smoke during a car journey.

What if You Get Caught Smoking in a Vehicle with Children?

Getting caught means the driver (as well as the smoker if a different person) can both receive a fine. The fixed penalty notice (FPN) fine for smoking in a car with a child is:

  • £50 (for the driver and for the person who smokes).
  • Up to £100 if the same person commits both offences.

This law will not apply if the driver of the car is seventeen (17) years old and alone in the vehicle. But, a smoker (e.g. the supervisor or anyone else) would be committing an offence if they were caught smoking in a vehicle used by a 17-year-old while learning to drive.

Furthermore, the same legislation applies to private vehicles wholly or partly enclosed by a roof, even if:

  • Air conditioning is running.
  • The vehicle windows or sunroof are positioned in the open position.
  • Smokers are sitting in an open doorway of the vehicle.

Note: You cannot pay a fixed penalty notice in installments. The deadline is within 28 days, but you can make the payment with a credit or debit card. Contact the Central Ticket Office of the relevant force – by calling the 101 non emergency number – for further information.

Exceptions to the Legislation

UK rules about smoking in a vehicle do not apply to campervans, motorhomes, and caravans used as a home. In short, the legislation applies to vehicles – not to the homes that people live in.

Some vehicles allow you to remove the roof panels, but not the actual supporting sections. In this case, a court would decide whether the remaining sections would constitute as some kind of a roof – or not.

Note: The legislation that covers smoking in a car if there are children inside does not apply to people who are vaping e-cigarettes.

Do I Have to Report Hitting an Animal to the Police?

UK legislation does not define all animals as an actual ‘animal’. Thus, it may not be necessary to report certain types of accidents to the police.

But, the law does require motorists to report any accident with:

  • Cattle
  • Dogs
  • Equidae (e.g. ass, donkey, horse, mule)
  • Goats
  • Pigs
  • Sheep

Even if the animal is not listed above, you can still contact the police to offer them information about the incident. Also, contacting the local authority means they would be able to remove any remains from the road.

Note: It is an offence to possess a badger, whether alive or dead (unless you have the proper authority to do so). Hence, the police recommend leaving badgers at the roadside after an accident.

Do I Need to Report Accident to Insurance?

The simple answer is ‘yes’ you have to report an accident to your insurance company. In fact, motorists must report all accidents to their insurer even in road accidents where they were not at fault.

Insurance companies base their quotes and policies on details given to them. Hence, if that information changes, it could:

  • Invalidate the insurance policy.
  • Give the insurer the right to cancel the policy.
  • Mean they refuse to insure you in future.

Is there a Specific Offence of ‘Road Rage’?

Somewhat surprisingly to many, road rage is not an offence in itself. Instead, the term describes a range of incidents that involve drivers of motor vehicles, such as:

  • Verbal abuse and threats.
  • Physical violence towards other motorists.
  • Damage to vehicles or property.

Note: Check rules 144 to 158 of the Highway Code for general guidance and advice about driving with reasonable consideration for other road users.

What is Meant by Crash for Cash?

In most cases, a ‘cash for crash’ incident involves fraudsters who will ‘deliberately’ cause a road traffic collision (or stage an accident) to get financial gain. The three common types of ‘cash for crash’ scams, are:

  • Ghost accidents
  • Induced accidents
  • Staged accidents

Note: The main section on police frequently asked questions is not an official resource for England and Wales. But, it’s a good place to check through up-to-date factual content and references.

Disabled Drivers

Are Some Cars Exempt from Road Tax?

In fact, there are several different types of vehicles that are exempt from the requirement of having to pay tax. Some of the most common include:

Note: Another section contains more information about vehicles exempt from road tax, including those used by people with a disability.

What are the Exemptions to Wearing a Seatbelt?

It became law to wear a seatbelt on the 31st of January 1983 in the United Kingdom. But, the list of seat belt exemption (meaning you are exempt from having to wear one) apply to:

  • A person with a medical certificate stating that on medical grounds it is not advisable for them to wear a seatbelt (includes pregnancy).
  • Drivers of vehicles performing manoeuvres which include reversing (e.g. a 3 point turn), including a qualified driver who is supervising a learner driver while performing manoeuvres including reversing.
  • The driver or passenger in a goods vehicle on a journey that does not exceed fifty (50) metres undertaken for delivering or collecting anything.
  • A disabled person if they are wearing a disabled person’s belt.
  • A person driving or riding in a vehicle used for fire brigade or police purposes or for carrying a person in lawful custody (can include the detained person).
  • The driver of a licensed taxi being used for:
    • Seeking hire.
    • Answering a call for hire.
    • Carrying a passenger for hire.
  • Private hire vehicles used to carry a passenger for hire.
  • A person driving a vehicle used under a trade licence whilst investigating or fixing a mechanical fault with the vehicle.
  • Persons involved in a procession organised by or on behalf of the Crown or which is commonly or customarily held, or a procession which a notice under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986 has been issued.
  • A person conducting a test of competence to drive (if the wearing of a seatbelt would endanger himself or any other person).
  • A person driving a vehicle whereby the driver’s seat is not provided with an adult belt.
  • A person riding in the front of a vehicle if no adult belt is available for them in the front of the vehicle.
  • A person riding in the rear of a vehicle if no adult belt is available for them in the rear of the vehicle.
  • A person riding in a small or large bus used to provide a local service in a built-up area (where the entire route consists of restricted roads).
  • A person riding in a small or large bus constructed or adapted for the carriage of standing passengers and on which the operator allows standing.
  • Persons riding in an ambulance while providing medical attention or treatment to a patient which due to its nature or the medical situation of the patient cannot be delayed.

Note: Failing to wear a seat belt in the correct manner outside any of these exemptions is an offence.

Can I Get a Parking Ticket with a Blue Badge?

In fact, disabled parking badges are only meant for on-street parking. In most cases, a different set of rules will apply to off-street car parks (e.g. at hospitals, supermarkets, and shopping centres).

Thus, the on-street parking concessions available to Blue Badge holders do not apply everywhere. The signs should display any time limits that apply in certain off-street areas.

You can challenge a parking ticket by writing to the address on it. Remember to include a photocopy of your disabled parking permit if you have one.

Note: Other sections explain who can get a disabled parking badge and where can disabled people park (excluding Central London).

What Rules Relate to the Use of Invalid Carriages?

Legislation uses the term ‘invalid carriage‘ to describe these types of vehicles. But, police also use the term mobility scooters (sometimes mobility vehicles).

The three types of mobility vehicles are:

  • Class 1 (manual wheelchairs): These are propelled by yourself or by an attendant and they are not electrically powered (e.g. like e-bike bicycles).
  • Class 2 (powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters): These have a maximum speed limit of four (4) mph and are meant for footpath or pavement use only.
  • Class 3 (powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters): These have a maximum speed limit of eight (8) mph (with a facility to travel at 4 mph on a footpath or pavement) and are mainly used on roads.

Even though other electrically powered transponders look similar to mobility vehicles (e.g. golf buggies), the law does not refer to them as ‘invalid carriages’. Hence, you must not use them on pavements or on public highways.

Note: You can read more about using a mobility scooter on a road or pavement in the section covering Highway Code rules 36 to 46.

What’s the Difference between Taxis and Private Hire Vehicles?

Because taxis are hackney carriages, they will have a license that allows them to pick up people from the roadside (e.g. if they hail a cab).

Whereas, private hire vehicles only have permission to pick up pre-arranged bookings. They cannot ‘legally’ pick people up at the side of the road.

Note: Another section explains more about licence rules and regulations for taxis and PHVs in the London area and outside.

Driving Licence

Are My ‘L’ Plates Lawful?

Modern L plate fixings differ to the old traditional flat plastic plates. The law is not specific about attaching ‘Learner’ plates. Even so, they must be displayed to the front and the rear of any vehicle being driven by a learner. L plates must also be the correct size to be lawful in the United Kingdom (see below).

The law also requires you to remove the L plates from a vehicle any time it is not being used by an actual learner driver.

Penalties for Failing to Display L Plates

You can receive a fine or six (6) penalty points on your driving licence if you fail to display the correct size L plate on your vehicle while learning to drive.

Note: Another section explains the correct procedures for using ‘L’ and ‘P’ plates with a diagram showing the correct sizes.

What Happens if I Stole a Car when I was 15?

In most cases, the validation period for penalty points and disqualifications is three (3) or ten (10) years. However, they would remain on your driving record for an extra year.

Thus, applying for a driving licence at the age of seventeen (17) means points received at the age of 15 would still show. You can check your driving record online via the DVLA.

Note: The laws in the United Kingdom set age limitations for participating in certain types of activities and privileges. Another section lists the restrictive rules and regulations governed by your age.

How Do I Check My Driving Licence Online?

You can check your driver’s licence, road tax, MOT status, and insurance online. Another page explains how to view or share your driving licence information (e.g. to see which vehicles you can drive).

The askMID.com website allows you to conduct a free check and find out if your vehicle shows up on the Motor Insurance Database (MID).

Note: The driving laws section explains how to renew your driving licence online with the DVLA (e.g. if you are in possession of a valid UK passport).

Do I Need to Display a Tax Disk on My Vehicle?

There has been no legal requirement to display a tax disc on a vehicle since the rule ended on the 1st of October 2014.

Nevertheless, if you are one of the drivers with a Northern Ireland address, you will still need to display your MoT disc.

Note: You can register your vehicle as off the road (SORN) and notify the DVLA that you are taking the vehicle off the road (e.g. keeping it in a garage).

What’s the Difference between a Registered Keeper and Vehicle Owner?

According to the driving licence regulations, the registration document (V5) does not constitute proof of actual ownership.

Whereas, being the registered keeper means you will be the person using the vehicle for the most part or keeping it (not necessarily paying for it).

Driving Offences

Can Cyclists Commit Dangerous Driving?

In the same way that a driver can commit ‘dangerous driving‘, a cyclist can also commit a similar offence of ‘dangerous cycling’. In fact, police forces use the same test to determine whether riders are cycling in a dangerous manner, such as:

  • If the rider falls far below the expected level of competent and careful cyclists.
  • The way that a rider is cycling would appear dangerous to a competent and careful cyclist.

In simple terms, cycling dangerously would refer to a situation of danger or that of injury to any person, including any serious damage caused to property.

For example, riding a bicycle on a footpath or a pavement is an offence. This may be evidence that the cyclist was riding the bike in a dangerous manner.

What about Drink Driving on a Pedal Cycle?

Yes, cyclists can be prosecuted for riding a bicycle while intoxicated (e.g. unfit through drink or drugs). In short, you must have proper control of the pedal cycle at all times.

Do I Need to Wear a Helmet while Cycling?

The last time we checked, no UK law states that you ‘MUST’ wear a helmet when cycling. But, the police recommend wearing one of the head protectors that conform to BS, ANZI, or SNELL status.

Note: You can only carry a passenger on a pedal cycle if it’s been adapted to carry another person (e.g. bikes with special seats fitted, tandems).

Is there an Age Limit for being a Pillion Passenger?

Even though there is no minimum legal age for a child to ride as a pillion on a motorcycle, they must be (all):

  • Wearing a suitable helmet.
  • Able to sit astride the seat with their feet on both footrests.
  • Capable of holding on properly.

Furthermore, children should be wearing suitable protective clothing and police strongly recommended that the parents consent to this kind of activity.

Can I Tow a Trailer with a Motorcycle?

As a general rule, the law does not allow motorcycles to:

  • Draw more than one (1) trailer.
  • Carry passengers in the trailer (an exception may apply if it is towing a broken down motorcycle).
  • Draw a trailer with an unladen weight that exceeding 254 kilogrammes (unless towing a broken down motorcycle).

Can Police Arrest Me for Sitting in My Car Drunk?

Yes, you can be arrested if the police catch you sat in your car drunk (e.g. over the permitted limit) even if you are not driving.

The offence is ‘being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst over the permitted limit’. Even so, police officers usually judge cases based on the individual merits, such as:

  • Whether the driver had the vehicle keys in their possession.
  • What was the driver doing at the time and were they actually inside the vehicle.
  • Was anyone else in or near to the vehicle.
  • What evidence do they see that suggests you intended to drive the vehicle.

Being Charged with Drink Driving while Sat in Your Car

The three offences that could result in a charge of drink driving for someone over the limit, but only sitting in their car, are:

  • Attempting to drive a motor vehicle whilst over the permitted limit (OPL).
  • Being in charge of a motor vehicle whilst OPL.
  • Driving a motor vehicle whilst over the permitted limit.

In short, you would need to show no likelihood of driving the vehicle whilst you are over the legal limit for alcohol. Otherwise, you would be committing an offence.

Does Sucking a Copper Coin Invalidate the Breathalyser Test?

No. The police say that even if you suck on a copper coin, or chew gum, it will have no effect at all on the breath test machine – or the results.

Do Police Need a Reason to Stop a Car?

The short answer is ‘no’. Police officers do not need to have a reason to stop any person who is driving a mechanically propelled vehicle (e.g. a car or van) or anyone riding a pedal cycle on a road.

If the police stop you while you are driving, they can then require you to provide your full name, and:

  • Date of birth (in certain circumstances)
  • Driving licence
  • Insurance details
  • MoT certificate

Motorists and cyclists should also be aware that failing to comply with any of these requirements would be committing an offence in the United Kingdom.

Note: Another section explains more about the breath test procedure for police and what your rights are in these circumstances.

Can I Listen to Music on a Mobile while Driving or Riding?

Listening to music on a mobile device (e.g. an iPhone) whilst driving a car or riding a bicycle, is not an offence, per se.

But, motorists and riders should be mindful that listening to music can often be distracting. As a rule, you need most of your senses to be alert (especially your hearing) to be in proper control of the vehicle while traveling around in traffic.

Is Riding Backwards as a Pillion Passenger Legal?

Yes, sitting the wrong way around as a pillion passenger on a motorbike is a legal activity in the United Kingdom.

Hence, providing the motorcycle has footrests, you can sit backwards (e.g. filming the police on duty or tracking a marathon).

Is it Illegal to Wear Sunglasses while Driving at Night?

In fact, you can legally wear sunglasses whilst driving a car or riding a motorbike at night (e.g. in the dark). But, the police advise against doing so because you need to have clear vision at all times.

Is Failing to Give Cyclists Enough Room an Offence?

According to rule 163 of the UK Highway Code, motorists should only overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so.

Thus, always give cyclists, motorcyclists, and horse riders at least the same amount of room that you would when overtaking a car.

What are the Rules for Single Yellow Lines?

A single yellow line is an indication that some waiting restrictions apply to the carriageways, pavements and roadside verges. As long as there are no loading restrictions signposted, you can stop your vehicle to load or unload, or to allow passengers to board or alight.

A double yellow line means there is no waiting allowed – at any time. The exception would be when signs ‘specifically’ indicate seasonal restrictions. Read more about parking vs. waiting restrictions.

Nearby plates (or entry signs to controlled parking zones) will show the times of restrictions that apply for single yellow lines. But, the restrictions will be in force every day (including Sundays and Bank Holidays) if the signs do not show any specific days.

Note: The law does not require officers who issue parking tickets to stick them on the windscreen. Many will place it under the windscreen wiper to stop it blowing away.

Motor Insurance and MOT

Is Car Insurance from a Door to Door Salesperson Genuine?

It is not uncommon for a doorstop salesperson to offer cheap car insurance. But, if it sounds too good to be true… it usually is! So, how can you be sure it is a bona fide deal?

In fact, almost none of the reputable insurance companies sell door to door any longer. So, being offered car insurance a lot cheaper than other quotes, means it is best to beware.

How to Verify Validity?

As a general rule, the police advise motorists not to buy insurance from a door to door salesperson. But, it may be worth accepting the deal if you can verify the salesperson works for the company they say they do – and the insurance is actually valid.

You can check by contacting the company yourself and trying to verify the details of the salesperson. It is best to avoid using telephone numbers given to you. Instead, try to find the number yourself (e.g. using a Google search).

People who are taking out valid car insurance will get a certificate (e.g. by email or by post) and a pack containing:

  • A policy booklet.
  • A schedule (with other relevant documentation).

If you only get a certificate and a schedule (e.g. without a policy booklet), it may not be genuine – and you would not have valid insurance cover.

Note: Another section contains more information about doorstep selling regulations and the legal rights of consumers in the United Kingdom.

Can I Drive My Car to the Garage with an Expired MOT?

So, how do get your vehicle tested if it doesn’t have a current MOT certificate? In cases such as these, the law only allows you to drive it:

  • To or from a pre-arranged MOT appointment.
  • To or from a pre-arranged repair appointment to remedy any defects discovered on a previous MOT test.

As long you have the legal minimum vehicle insurance, you can also drive it on a road without road tax. But, be aware that some insurers may invalidated the cover for not having a current MOT.

Important: Another section contains extra information and guidance about the MOT rules in the United Kingdom.

Road Traffic and the Law

Can I Undertake on Motorways (overtake on the left)?

You will find a detailed answer to this question in rule 268 of the Highway Code. It tells motorists not to overtake on the left (e.g. undertake) or travel to a lane on your left hand side to overtake a vehicle in front.

Even so, certain congested conditions allow drivers to keep up with the traffic in other lanes (e.g. moving ahead of traffic in the lane to the right). But, you should not weave in and out of lanes for overtaking.

Note: Another section explains more about motorway driving rules and the proper use of lanes, signals, and slip road exits.

What Should You Do if You Break Down on a Motorway?

The help guide titled ‘broken down on motorway‘ explains the value of using common sense in dangerous situations. But, the main priority would be to consider your own safety and that of any passengers.

Police Questions and Answers about Abandoned Motor Vehicles

What Can I Do about an Abandoned Car?

You see a car left outside your house and you think someone may have abandoned it. What action should you take?

First of all, it’s a good idea to check with your neighbours. It is possible that one of them has some useful information about the owner of the vehicle.

If not, and you believe the vehicle has been dumped (e.g. abandoned), you can report the matter to your local council authority.

Note: Another section explains how to report an abandoned vehicle and deal with other problems on the streets and roads.

What if Someone Abandons a Car on Private Land?

Getting someone else’s vehicle removed from your own land may not be a straight forward process. But, the police have some suggestions for members of the public to follow:

  • You should contact the local police (e.g. by calling 101 or 999) if the situation requires an emergency response. Typical examples would be if the vehicle contains dangerous items (e.g. gas bottles) or it is in a dangerous condition (e.g. leaking fuel).
  • Local councils have an obligation to remove any abandoned vehicles from roads, private roads, and areas of land in the open air. Even so, some of their policies vary in different regions.

So, what if it doesn’t look like someone abandoned the vehicle and it doesn’t appear to be in a dangerous condition? In this case, it may be best to seek legal guidance (e.g. from the Citizens Advice Bureau or a solicitor).

In short, you may need to get a court order from a civil court or pursue a civil action for nuisance against the driver or owner of the vehicle.

Some important points to consider:

  • The police advise against pushing a vehicle onto a road and leaving it there. Doing so may actually be committing an offence in itself.
  • Seek legal advice before clamping the vehicle yourself, damaging it, or having a third party remove it on your behalf. It would not be uncommon for the registered owner to pursue a civil action against you for doing so.
  • In some cases, you may be able to recover the cost of having the vehicle removed (e.g. from the registered owner). A legal advisor can provide further information about this option.

Note: Taking legal action through the courts can be long and expensive. It is worth checking whether your house insurance would cover the process.

Is Blocking a Driveway Illegal in the United Kingdom?

It happens almost every day somewhere around the country. Someone parks their car and it is blocking your driveway. So, what can you do about it?

Is blocking a driveway illegal in the United Kingdom?As a general rule, it is worth checking with the neighbours first – especially if you need immediate access to your driveway.

They may know who the car belongs to and it should be an easy process to get it moved.

Many of the local council authorities have started operating Civil Parking Enforcement (e.g. a free service for enforcing parking provisions).

According to Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) rules, parking a vehicle in such a way that it is blocking a dropped kerb driveway is now an offence.

Here’s the good news:

You can report vehicles that are obstructing a dropped kerb to any relevant councils that have taken on CPE. If not, you can contact the local police force instead.

Even so, the actual policy for dealing with matters such as these may vary between regional police forces and local council authorities.

For example, some police forces will only attend to a report about a car blocking a driveway if it’s blocked you in (e.g. you are unable to get your car out of your driveway).

Note: The Department for Transport provide further guidance about the areas in England that operate civil parking enforcement.

What if Someone Parks their Car Outside Your House?

If someone has parked their car right outside your house, most likely you will be unable to park your car in the usual parking space. So, is there anything you, or the police, can do about it?

First of all, making enquiries with the neighbours is likely to locate the owner of the vehicle. Often, this is the quickest way to get the car moved.

But, because cars can park on any road for any length of time (restrictions permitting), the police will not be able to take any legal action if the vehicle is (all):

Note: If no one moves the vehicle for several weeks it may have been abandoned. So, you would be able to report an abandoned vehicle to the local council in the usual way.

What if there is a Burnt Out Car in Your Street?

The first people to contact about a burnt out car on your street is the local police force. In turn, they will contact the most appropriate organisation on your behalf to get the vehicle removed as soon as possible.

It’s not unusual to see people removing parts from abandoned cars. If you see them doing it, you should call your local police force on 999. Try to give them as much as information as possible (including what has been taken).

What Can I Do if People Park in My Parking Space?

The recommendation is to speak to the landlord or the council to see if they can take action against the culprit. You might employ a private parking company to issue parking tickets if you own the land.

Even so, the law that deals with unauthorised vehicles parked on private land is often expensive and time consuming.

As a rule, you should have more success by restricting the access (e.g. using barriers, fencing, gates). It tends to ensure vehicular entrance for only those with entitlement to do so.

Note: You may take legal action against anyone responsible for damaging the barriers, since it would be a case of criminal damage.

Can Cars Park on the Pavement or Grass Verges?

In some areas, local by-laws (e.g. via signage) prevent you from parking your car on a grass verge if it is owned by the council. Furthermore, a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) would prohibit you from parking on a pavement.

Some of the offences that parking on the pavement may commit, include:

  • Criminal damage
  • Parking on yellow zig zag lines outside schools
  • Dangerous parking
  • Unnecessary obstruction

Under normal circumstances, parking a vehicle on privately owned land is not against the law as long as you have permission from the landowner.

Note: As a rule, you can park a caravan or trailer on the road outside your house, providing it does not cause an obstruction or breach other legal requirements.

Are Remote Control Parking Systems Legal in United Kingdom?

Using remote control parking (RCP) systems became legal on the 11th of June 2018. But, RCPs are only allowed when:

  • Using a mobile telephone or other device to perform a remote controlled parking function of a motorised vehicle (and):
  • The device only enables the vehicle to move where (all):
    • There is continuous activation of the remote control application of the telephone or device by the driver.
    • The signal between the device and the vehicle is maintained (and)
    • The distance between the device and the vehicle is not more than six (6) metres.

Note: The Highway Code updates, carried out on a regular basis, reflect the changes in motoring laws and penalties for failing to obey them.

How Do I Report an Untaxed Car Parked on the Road?

One of the most common questions we get asked about is… ‘who should I contact if I see a car parked on my road without any road tax’?

The section on vehicle road tax explains how to report an untaxed car in greater detail (e.g. online via the DVLA website).

You can also contact the police using the ‘101 non emergency number‘. But, the actual procedures for a response varies with different forces. Your local police station will provide further information.

Important: You will need to supply the make and model of the car (e.g. Ford Fiesta), the registration number (e.g. A123 ABC), and the exact location of the vehicle.

Police Questions and Answers about Abnormal Loads

What Qualifies as an Abnormal Load?

The basic law that governs the way normal motor vehicles and trailers are built and operate on the road is the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1988 (C&U).

Moving large or heavy loads exceeding the dimensions set down in the C&U Regulations (e.g. abnormal loads) is permitted if they meet the requirements of the Road Vehicles (Authorisation of Special Types) (General) Order 2003 (STGO).

Freight which cannot be divided into at least two (2) loads for carriage and, because of its length, width, height or weight, cannot be carried on a normal vehicle, it will be considered as an abnormal indivisible load.

Dimensions of an Abnormal Load:


  • C&U Regulations and STGO: Over 305 millimeters overhang on either side
  • C&U Regulations: More than 2.9 metres overall width
  • STGO: More than 3 metres overall width


  • C&U Regulations: More than 18.65 metres rigid length
  • STGO: More than 18.75 metres rigid length
  • C&U and STGO: More than 25.9 metres overall length
  • C&U and STGO: More than 3.05 metres overhang (load) to front or rear


  • C&U and STGO: Exceeds authorised weight for class of vehicle (usually 44 tonnes)

Note: Another section explains more about transporting abnormal loads around the United Kingdom and how to use the ESDAL system to notify authorities about the movement of oversize or overweight cargo.

What are the Rules for Escorting Abnormal Loads?

It is no longer ‘routine’ for the police to escort abnormal loads in the United Kingdom. In fact, haulers can provide their own escort vehicles (excluding very large loads).

As a rule, you would need some form of escort (based on the load width and weight, and vehicle speed), especially on dual carriageways and motorways.

Operating a private escort does not provide you with any powers to control the traffic. Instead, it provides warning about any danger that the journey may cause (particularly to the driver).

All vehicles, including the escort(s) and the abnormal load, need to comply with the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) and Highways Agency code of practice.

Note: Another section explains more about the procedures for transporting abnormal loads and notifying authorities about the movement of oversize cargo.

Speeding: Speed Camera Detectors

Are Speed Cameras Calibrated?

In fact, speed camera calibration takes place once per year – according to set guidelines. As a result, it is very rare for a speed camera detector to malfunction.

If speed cameras do malfunction, the police will spot the faults before sending out any notices of intended prosecution (NIP).

Note: Most drivers have heard some of the rumours about roadside speed traps. So, it’s worth reviewing some of the true facts about yellow speed cameras.

What is Notice of Intended Prosecution (NIP)?

A notice of intended prosecution (NIP) has one primary purpose. It is to inform a potential defendant of an impending prosecution for an offence they committed. Thus, they receive the NIP while the incident is ‘relatively’ fresh in their memory.

Even so, receiving a notice of intended prosecution does not always result in an actual prosecution. Thus, it acts as a warning that someone is likely to face prosecution.

Serving a Notice of Intended Prosecution

An NIP must be ‘served’ within fourteen (14) days of the actual offence and be given to the driver or the registered keeper of the vehicle. Otherwise, the offence would not be able to proceed at a court of law.

What if the driver’s details are unknown? If not, they will send the NIP to the registered keeper. Either way, the notice will be valid providing it arrives at the relevant address and within the appropriate time limit.

The registered keeper may have changed address and failed to inform DVLA. In this case, NIPs that arrive at the address on record within fourteen days will be valid. As a result, the registered keeper would then be obligated to make the driver’s identity known.

The driver may also receive other paperwork in addition to the ‘legally’ required document (NIP). Police can also issue an NIP to drivers at the time of the offence ‘verbally’. Otherwise, you may receive a court summons for the alleged offence (e.g. sent through the post).

Mistakes on NIPs

As a rule, a small mistake appearing on a notice of intended prosecution would not render it ineffective. The exception would be if it misleads the actual defendant (e.g. the recipient of the notice).

Note: A notice shall be ‘served’ if posted to the last known address, even if returned undelivered, or not received for any other reason. Thus, a posted NIP is ‘served’ until or unless the contrary is shown.

Vehicle Regulations

Questions about vehicle Lights, Number Plates, and Accessories

What Bike Lights Do I Need at Night?

If you are going to ride a pedal cycle during the hours of darkness you should have (as a minimum):

  • Front position lamp
  • Rear position lamp
  • Rear retro reflector
  • Pedal retro reflectors

What are the Legal Requirements for Number Plates?

In fact, altering, re-arranging, or misrepresenting the characters on a number plate is an offence. Hence, the police must be able to distinguish vehicle registration numbers without confusion.

Offenders can get £1000 fine for breaking this law. Furthermore, the DVLA may withdraw the registration number from use and the vehicle in question may fail its MOT.

Note: You may have seen a spray that covers registration numbers. It is not legal in the United Kingdom. Moreover, even though the spray interferes with flash photography, most speed cameras use technology called Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR). So, the use of infrared makes the spray ineffective.

Do People Have to Wear Seatbelts in the Front and Back?

Yes, wearing a seatbelt in the front and the rear of a car is compulsory, unless it is an ‘old’ model and it doesn’t have seatbelts fitted.

The rules relating to backless booster seats for children changed in 2017. You can read more about the booster seat law UK and other safety rules in the motoring section.

Note: The section about driving rules in the United Kingdom contains more information and advice about the legal and traffic requirements for motorists.

Can I Drive a Vehicle with a Broken Speedometer?

You must ensure that the speedometer is free from any obstruction that prevents it from being read. It must also be in good working order when using the vehicle on public roads.

Can I drive a vehicle with a broken speedometer?Even so, there are three exceptions to this rule. You can drive a vehicle with a broken speedometer ‘legally’, if:

  • The vehicle’s speedometer actually became defective during the same journey being undertaken.
  • You have already taken steps to have the defect remedied (e.g. replacing or repairing it) without any undue delay.
  • The vehicle has an approved tachograph fitted (see the tachograph rules made easy section for more information about tachometers and how to use them.

Do I Need Extended Wing Mirrors when Towing a Caravan?

The legal requirement is clear on this one. The driver must be able to see down both sides of the caravan. You need to see an area of four (4) metres either side at a distance of twenty (20) metres behind it.

What if the existing car mirrors fail to provide this amount of vision? If in doubt, it is best to fit extension towing mirrors to avoid the risk of committing a motoring offence.

Is Using Fog Lights Illegal When it’s Not Foggy?

In fact, Rule 226 of the Highway Code explains why you must not use front or rear fog lights unless there is a serious reduction in visibility.

Using them in good visibility could dazzle other road users and it could also obscure brake lights. Hence, the UK Highway Code says you MUST switch off your fog lights as the visibility improves.

As a rule, you will need to use vehicle headlights when visibility is ‘seriously’ reduced (see less than 100 metres (328 feet)). If you are also using front or rear fog lights, you MUST switch them off as conditions improve.

How Dark Can I Tint My Car Windows?

The police issue the legal requirements for the visual transmission of light, as follows:

  • 70% (for all motor vehicles first used before the 1st of April 1985).
  • Windscreen 75%, other windows (e.g. front passenger windows) 70% (for motor vehicles first used on or after the 1st of April 1985).

The rear windscreen (and rear side windows on both sides) are exempt of this rule. Even so, police forces use special equipment to measure light transmission through glass.

Note: Another section explains more about the legal tint limit UK and the penalty for having car windows too dark.

Is it Illegal to take a Photo while Driving?

Taking a photograph (including selfies) while driving can result in a prosecution. The law says the driver or rider must be in full control of the vehicle.

Hence, you could be prosecuted for careless or reckless driving. Furthermore, seriously injuring or killing someone whilst taking a photo or selfie could lead to a conviction of (any):

  • Causing death by dangerous driving.
  • Causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
  • Causing death by careless driving.

Official research (carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory) shows that mental, physical, or visual distraction may impair judgement and reaction times while in charge of a vehicle.

Is a Car Jack and Spare Tyre a Legal Requirement?

Because most vehicle manufacturers provide tyre sealant and an inflation kit, the answer is ‘no’. Even so, these temporary solutions means you would need to have the tyre repaired or replaced without delay.

As a rule, car manufacturers that provide a space saver (or temporary spare wheel) will also issue some restrictions, such as:

  • Not exceeding 50mph.
  • Using them on the front only (or rear only).

What is the Law for Tyre Tread?

The basic tyre tread depth requirements in the United Kingdom are as follows:

  • Cars, goods vehicles (e.g. vans not exceeding 3500kg, trailers and caravans not exceeding 3500kg)
    • Minimum tread depth is a minimum of 1.6 millimetres throughout a continuous band in the centre three-quarters of the tread and around the entire circumference.
  • Most other types of vehicles (e.g. buses, large goods vehicles)
    • A minimum of 1 millimetre throughout a continuous band across at least three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference. The original tread pattern must be clearly visible in the remaining quarter.
    • A minimum of 1 millimetre where the original pattern did not extend beyond three-quarters of the breadth of the tread.
  • Motorcycles over 50cc
    • A minimum of 1 millimetre throughout a continuous band across at least three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference. The original tread pattern must be clearly visible in the remaining quarter.
    • A minimum of 1 millimetre where the original pattern did not extend beyond three-quarters of the breadth of the tread.
  • Mopeds and motorcycles not exceeding 50cc
    • The original tread pattern must be clearly visible.

Are ‘Tyre Flares’ Legal in the United Kingdom?

The type of lights that you can attach to tyre valves are sometimes called ‘tire flares’. In fact, this type of light contravenes road vehicle lighting regulations, mainly because they ‘move’.

In the UK, vehicle lights must be ‘fixed’. Hence, getting caught using tyre lights means you could end up paying a substantial fine.

Note: As a general rule, the use of any neon lights on or underneath a vehicle is likely to be committing an offence. In some cases, it would be up to a court to decide the legality of using accessory lights on vehicles.

Can You Drive with a Flag on Your Car?

Even though having flags on vehicles is not illegal per se, you can only drive with a flag attached to your car window if:

  • The flag does not obscure the driver’s vision (or that of any other motorists on the road).
  • It is not classed as an insecure load (e.g. likely to fall off and cause damage or injury).
  • The flag size is not ‘abnormal’ (e.g. not bigger than the size of A4 paper). Driving with a large flag attached to your car has the potential to cause problems for road users.
  • Your mascot (or emblem) would not cause injury if the vehicle were to collide with someone. Hence, most car mascots will either bend, retract, or detach themselves upon impact.

Note: Other sections have more information about flag flying etiquette and what flags are illegal to fly in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

What is the Law for Using Snow Chains?

The law relating to the use of snow chains on car tyres is a simple one. Yes they are lawful in the United Kingdom (especially when driving in adverse weather conditions).

But, according to the law, tyres must be suitable in relation to the standard use of the vehicle or trailer (and type of tyres fitted to the other wheels). In other words, using snow chains when there is no snow may be committing an offence.

Furthermore, the police suggest you only use snow chains when the road surface has a protective layer of compacted snow or ice. Using them on a normal road (e.g. with little or no snow) would risk damaging the road surface or vehicle. This could result in a prosecution.

Note: Always check whether you can use metal chains ‘safely’ on your vehicle. Because they ‘widen’ the wheel width, they could rub against the bodywork or interfere with electronic wheel sensors. Consult the vehicle handbook or an approved dealer if you are unsure.

Answers to Police Questions about Motoring in United Kingdom