by Lee Griffin,
founding member of GoCompare



Introduction

When it comes to the Highway Code, most drivers know they should obey the speed limit, stop at red lights, wear their seatbelts and so on; but are UK drivers really up to speed with the finer details, or are they unknowingly committing driving offences?

For example, did you know that eating whilst driving could be considered an offence, or failing to declare a listed medical condition to the DVLA could put you at risk of a heavy fine?

Not only is it bad for your driving record, but driving convictions will increase how much you pay for your car insurance: A driver with no convictions would pay a premium of £546.03 for their insurance, however, the same driver with two convictions in the last 3 years – one for using a handheld device and one for speeding on a motorway – would see their premium jump by 34% to £730.

We surveyed 2,000 UK adults to find out how much they know about current driving laws, and how guilty we are as a nation of committing offences at the wheel.



*Based on a 30-year-old single female, drives a Vauxhall Corsa, 12k miles a year, works as an accountant, 12 years NCB compared to 5 years NCB, at fault claim compared to no claim, driving in peak times, comprehensive standard policy, £250 excess, paying annually.

Lee Griffin

Founding member of GoCompare

If you have a driving conviction, you’ll be deemed a greater risk by your insurer, which will be reflected by an increase in your premium. How much your premium will increase by depends on a number of factors, including insurer’s own conviction policies, the type of conviction and any previous convictions you may already hold. Each insurer will assess differently, but an offence such as drink-driving will be treated as more serious than, say, a solitary speeding offence and will almost certainly result in a large rise in your premium.”

Overall

Which offences are the most commonly committed?

82% of survey respondents revealed that they had committed one or more of the driving offences below. 41% admitted to eating at the wheel which, while not directly illegal, can result in a fine of £100 for driving without due care and attention, and more than a third (36%) of the drivers we quizzed have beeped their horn while stationary in traffic and risked a fine of £1,000.



41%

Eaten while driving

Eaten while driving
36%

Beeped the horn while stationary in traffic

Beeped the horn while stationary in traffic
28%

Changed a CD while driving

Changed a CD while driving
28%

Driven with snow on your vehicle’s roof

Driven with snow on your vehicle’s roof
28%

Driven over a painted mini-roundabout

Driven over a painted mini-roundabout
27%

Sworn at, or made rude gestures to other road users

Sworn at, or made rude gestures to other road users
21%

Flashed your lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap

Flashed your lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap
19%

Played excessively loud music in your car

Played excessively loud music in your car

Gender split

Do men and women commit different offences?

Male drivers might be more careless than women on the road, but they’re more willing to risk penalties to help a stranger out. 35% of the male drivers we surveyed admitted to driving with snow on their car roof, an offence that can result in careless driving fines, while only 20% of women admitted to doing the same. Male drivers are more likely than females to flash their lights to warn fellow road users of an upcoming speed trap. Not only is it against the Highway Code to use your headlights inappropriately, but this act is also punishable by an ‘obstruction of police duty’ fine of up to £1,000.



Driven with snow on your vehicle’s roof

20%

Beeped the horn while stationary in traffic

29%

Driven over a painted mini-roundabout

22%

Flashed your lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap

15%

Sworn at, or made rude gestures to other road users

23%

Changed a CD while driving

24%

Eaten while driving

37%

Beeped the horn while your car is parked

12%

Driven through puddles and splashed pedestrians

5%

Played excessively loud music in your car

19%

Driven with a dog in the passenger seat

11%

Driven barefoot or in flip-flops

20%

Female

Male

Driven with snow on your vehicle’s roof

20%
35%

Beeped the horn while stationary in traffic

29%
41%

Driven over a painted mini-roundabout

22%
33%

Flashed your lights to warn other drivers of a speed trap

15%
26%

Sworn at, or made rude gestures to other road users

23%
31%

Changed a CD while driving

24%
32%

Eaten while driving

37%
44%

Beeped the horn while your car is parked

12%
16%

Driven through puddles and splashed pedestrians

5%
9%

Played excessively loud music in your car

19%
20%

Driven with a dog in the passenger seat

11%
10%

Driven barefoot or in flip-flops

20%
11%

Age

Which age groups commit the most offences?

While many might suspect that young drivers are the most guilty of careless driving, it seems that older age groups are, in fact, more likely to commit driving offences. The most commonly committed offence amongst all but one of the age groups we surveyed is eating at the wheel, with the highest proportion of offenders in the 55-64 age group (46%). Drivers aged 65+ are the most likely to beep their horn whilst stationary, a move punishable by fines of up to £1,000. Conversely, drivers in the 18-24 age group were the least likely to commit nine of the 12 offences we quizzed participants on.



Medical conditions

Which medical conditions do the DVLA need to know about?

There are over 180 medical conditions that UK drivers legally need to inform the DVLA about, failing to do so means risking a £1,000 fine – but do drivers know which conditions appear on the list? 96% of the people we surveyed believed that the DVLA did not need to be informed about AIDS or eating disorders, and 15% believed that none of the 11 medical conditions we quizzed them on, including those below, were a cause to alert the agency.



The percentage of people who said you do not need to inform the DVLA about these conditions:

Observed offences

How many people have seen an offence committed?

The vast majority of people have witnessed one or more of these driving offences taking place. 91% of the people we surveyed reported to having witnessed an offence, the most common one – excessively loud music being played from a car – having been observed by well over half (61%) of our participants. Eating while driving has been witnessed by 59% of the people we asked, and ranks as the most common punishable offence committed by them too.



Conclusion

As a nation, it seems we fall far short of fully understanding the rules of the road. 82% of respondents admitted to driving behaviours which put them at risk of conviction, plus, the vast majority believed – incorrectly – that all of the offences we listed were in fact, perfectly legal. This is worrying because not only are drivers risking hefty fines and points, a driving conviction can cause your insurance premium to rocket.