Four harmless-looking driving mistakes that are actually illegal

Image of a man tinkering with a phone whilst driving
Terry's concentration was diverted from the road as he realised he had a new Tinder match
"Bad and irresponsible driving are not just irritants to other road users, they also bring death and injury"
  • | by Dan Moore

The first UK driving test was taken just over 80 years ago. With 35 million vehicles now licenced to be on UK roads, it’s safe to say that motoring is rather popular.

Of course, the current driving test is more advanced than it was in 1935, which should mean drivers are much better these days, right?

Well, perhaps not.

It’s pretty much impossible to drive down a motorway without seeing someone hogging the middle or outer lane, tailgating, or randomly zipping between lanes.

And it’s little safer in our towns and cities, which are littered with cars parked on double yellow lines with hazard lights flashing.

So, let’s take a look at some of the seemingly harmless exhibitions of bad driving behaviour which could be putting you and others at risk.

Hazard light abusers

Image of a hazard light button

Pop ‘hazard light parking UK’ into a search engine and you’ll see a slew of examples of daft parking, from a Mini blocking tram lines in Nottingham to a Volkswagen Polo carefully parked on a zebra crossing in Edinburgh.

It is possible that some of these drivers are not selfish or lazy. Perhaps they just aren’t aware of the laws of the road.

When it comes to hazard lights, the Highway Code states: “Hazard warning lights … may be used when your vehicle is stationary, to warn that it is temporarily obstructing traffic. Never use them as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking.”

In all cases you can see why the drivers have chosen to ‘break down’ where they are.

They may be taking a mobile phone call, dropping off or taking delivery of goods, popping into a shop or using a public toilet.

The problem is they are creating an obstacle for pedestrians and drivers, which can lead to accidents.

Other road users have to swerve out of their lane to pass, while parents with pushchairs may need to risk stepping into traffic if someone has parked on the pavement.

Lane hogs

Picture of a motorway

Lane hogs are right up there on the irritant scale, as they needlessly cause other road users to switch lanes to avoid undertaking or leave everyone else crawling along in their wake.

Of course it’s tempting to undertake, but this is dangerous, especially if the idiot in the outer lane wakes up and decides to move in.

Unfortunately, the person undertaking will be held responsible for any subsequent collision, which could have disastrous implications for the price of your annual car insurance premium.

Last month, the first-ever fine for middle-lane hogging was dished out to a painter and decorator from Wigan for doing 60mph in the middle lane of the M62. He was also given five penalty points on his licence.

Tailgaters

Image of a visibly irate man driving a car

It doesn’t matter how experienced a driver you are, or how sharp your reflexes are: if you’re travelling at 70mph and you need to stop your car will travel 315 feet before coming to a standstill, unless you end up in the back of the lorry or car in front before that.

Mobile phone menaces

Image of someone looking at a mobile phone whilst driving

It’s hardly a rarity to see someone nattering away. In fact, even before seeing the handset, it’s often pretty clear what they are up to.

We’ve all seen cases of the car in front slow down and even stop at a pedestrian crossing, because the driver has caught a glimpse of a flashing orange light and misinterpreted this a signal to stop, rather than go (if it’s safe to do so).

Sure, speeding, talking on a mobile, tailgating and lane hogging are all criminal offences, and can see the errant motorist slapped with a £100 fine and three points on their licence, but all you need is one slip and the ramifications could be tragic.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Bad and irresponsible driving are not just irritants to other road users, they also bring death and injury. In 2013, careless driving was a contributory factor in around one-in-six crashes where someone was killed or seriously injured. For aggressive driving it was about one in 20.

“A couple of years ago the law was changed to give police greater powers to deal with antisocial driving at the roadside. What’s not clear is how widely these powers are being used and are affecting the casualty figures.”

Time will only tell, but no one wants to be the driver who finds out the hard way.