Is it illegal to drive barefoot, with flip flops, wearing headphones, with an expired driving licence or without a spare tyre?
Is it illegal to drive with bare feet or in flip flops? While wearing headphones? Without a spare tyre? Or even when not wearing a shirt?
Such tricky questions are among those reportedly most asked by motorists searching the internet for answers to their driving dilemmas.
Comparison site Uswitch says the queries are among the most common 'is it illegal to...' questions drivers have asked this year, with driving on an expired licence, with only one headlight or when listening to loud music also among the issues motorists find themselves most unsure of.
Motoring expert Joel Kempson said: "There are lots of rules on the road that may seem ambiguous at first, but it is critical that drivers know what is and isn’t legal when driving.
"If you are unsure about whether something is legal, be sure to check before driving. These kinds of decisions can lead to fines, points on your licence, or even worse consequences such as injury. If you are in doubt, always take the safest option.”
With the help of Uswitch's motoring experts we attempt to dispel some of the myths and highlight those things you absolutely must not do...
1. Is it illegal to drive with an expired driving licence?
Hefty punishments exist for those with an expired licence. You could get a fine of up to £100 or between three and six penalty points. Your car could be seized, while vehicles of persistent offenders can even be crushed or disposed of by the police. You must never get behind the wheel of a car without a valid licence. You can find the expiry date on the card under section 4b.
At the height of the pandemic in 2020 some extensions were applied to licences when lockdown made it difficult for drivers to get documents replaced but most of those periods of grace are now coming to an end, so it's more important than ever to double check. More details about that can be found here.
2. Is it illegal to drive barefoot?
Said to be one of the most popular questions on the subject of driving - it is not illegal providing you can still safely operate the vehicle. But driving barefoot carries the risk of you not having proper grip on the pedals and your breaking force will be altered, says the Driving Standards Agency, so although you will not face a fine you may run into problems, particularly with your car insurance provider, if an accident was linked to your bare feet.
3. Is it illegal to drive in certain footwear?
Just like driving barefoot no footwear is illegal to drive in, so long as it's safe to do so. But flip flops or sandals are not recommended as they do not provide secure grip or control. Footwear guidelines for driving, including those issued by the RAC, include no sole thicker than 10mm, a shoe with grip for the pedals, nothing which limits ankle movement such as wellington boots, or shoes that are too heavy. And avoid clunky footwear that may prevent you only touching one pedal at a time.
4. Is it illegal to drive with one headlight?
Driving without proper working headlights is illegal. And if the other headlight failed while you were driving you risk driving with no visibility. If you drive with one headlight you will be pulled over by the police. The offence begins with a £100 fixed penalty notice - intended as a warning to fix your headlights. But if this offence is challenged in court it could rise to £1000.
5. Is it illegal to drive without a shirt?
This is not illegal - unless considered a crime against fashion? Driving shirtless should not hinder freedom of movement or driving ability, although it may cause other drivers to take a second glance at you when you pass by. But it is possible you could cause damage to your skin if you were to be involved in an accident, so it's likely to be safer to pop the air conditioning on or wind down the window when driving in the summer.
6. Is it illegal to drive without MOT?
In most cases it is illegal. If caught by police you can be handed a fine of up to £1,000 and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems can also now identify vehicles driving without an MOT.
The only cases in which this is not illegal, is if you are driving your vehicle to a booked MOT test or driving to or from a garage for repairs. In these scenarios, it is important to carry proof of your booking with you just incase you get stopped.
As MOT tests validate your car as road-safe, if you do not get your vehicle checked it could be a danger on the road and then penalties can become more severe. Fines can reach £2500, and three points on your licence for each defect identified while multiple problems could lead to you losing your licence all together, if you are already carrying points.
7. Is it illegal to drive with headphones?
It's not illegal, but could still land you in trouble. You might have headphones in to operate a hands free system or listen to music but doing this can lead to reduced awareness on the road. While there is no law connected to the wearing of headphones themselves, if you were found to be driving carelessly with them in you may get a £100 fine, which if the case went to court could increase to £5,000, up to nine points and even possibly a ban.
8. Is it illegal to drive with loud music playing?
Playing loud music is usually not illegal and is seen as better than wearing headphones but it can still land you a penalty. According to the Highway Code, loud music that is deemed a distraction can result in a £100 fine and three points on your licence. In more extreme circumstances, if you have music so loud that it hinders your awareness, you could again be hit with a £5,000 fine and possibly a driving ban.
9. Is it illegal to drive without a spare tyre?
You do not have to carry a spare tyre with you on the road and some cars these days don't come with them. But if you carry one there are rules you must abide by.
Any tyre you have must comply with tyre laws, just like those fitted on the vehicle. The wrong tyre pressure or tread depth could get you into trouble if you were forced to then put that spare tyre on your car. If you are found driving on tyres that have tread lower than the legal minimum you can risk receiving up to 3 penalty points on your driving licence and a fine of £2,500 per illegal tyre.