Clear up confusion about laws around shoes, when you can use your cellphone and whether refueling is worse in hot weather
There’s no doubt that summer is finally here and scorching weather coupled with the school holidays means millions of us will be taking to the streets to make the most of it.
Most of the do’s and don’ts of driving are spelled out in the Highway Code, but every driver has also heard the “wisdom” from friends and family about other rules of the road – everything from illegal footwear to speed camera bumps.
Most of this advice is well intentioned, but a lot of it is also wildly inaccurate, so here we’ve busted some of the most common myths about summer driving.
It is illegal to ride in flip flops or barefoot
As soon as the sun comes out, so does this old chestnut tree, but it’s just not true. There is no legislation that defines which shoes are legal for driving and which are not.
However, the law stipulates that you must be able to use the controls of your car correctly and if your footwear – whether flip-flops, sandals, high heels or rubber boots – if this has an effect you can still get into trouble.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency also advises against driving barefoot in the summer: “We would not recommend driving barefoot because barefoot does not have the same braking power as with shoes.”
When it’s hot, you get less fuel for your money
This claim stems from the idea that liquids are cooler at lower temperatures, so fuel is less dense in hot weather, meaning you get less out of a tank of fuel. With gas prices near record levels, such a potential loss could put drivers in their pockets, but the truth is, it’s another myth. The fuel in gas stations is stored deep underground, where it has a constant temperature, regardless of the air temperature in the forecourt.
It is illegal to eat or drink while driving
We’ve all heard stories of drivers being stopped by police and charged with eating or drinking while driving, but in fact there’s no law against it and in hot weather it’s important you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and alert stay. However, if the police think you are not controlling your vehicle properly or are distracted by eating or drinking, they can charge you with careless driving. A 2012 study by the University of Leeds also found that drivers’ response times when eating were up to 44 per cent slower than usual.
All speed cameras will flash when caught
Not so. There are many different types of speed cameras and while some will blink when they are working, not all will. The first thing you might know is when that dreaded prosecution notice lands in your mailbox.
You will not be penalized if you exceed the speed limit by less than 10%
Another common speeding myth, although one that actually has some basis. The speed limit is just that – a limit – and if you exceed it you can be charged. However, guidelines for police officers suggest they use a discretionary buffer of 10 percent plus 2 miles per hour. The National Police Chiefs’ Council says this is to ensure enforcement is proportionate, but officers can still charge you for driving 1mph if they wish.
Changing lanes fools average speed cams
Another speeding story with a grain of truth behind it. When they were first introduced, it was possible to confuse average speed cameras by changing lanes. Since then, however, technology has improved and the latest systems can monitor your speed regardless of your road position.
It is illegal to turn on interior lights while driving
This particular piece of wisdom is almost as old as the automobile, but it’s just not true. If police think leaving lights on interferes with your driving or might distract other motorists, they can ask you to turn them off, but there’s no law that says you can’t leave them on.
You cannot use your phone as a navigation device
Despite a recent change in the law, there is still some confusion surrounding using a cell phone while driving. With a £200 fine and six penalty points if you break the law, you want to be sure you’re following the rules. You can use a phone’s Maps app for navigation, but there are certain conditions. It must be properly and securely mounted in a position that does not obstruct your view, and you must not operate the touchscreen while driving. So mount the device correctly and make sure your route is plotted before you set off.
With fully comprehensive insurance, you can drive any car
This is another common belief that can lead to unknowing drivers breaking the law. Comprehensive insurance used to offer liability insurance for driving another vehicle. In many cases this is still the case, but some insurers have removed the ‘drive another car’ allowance from their policies, meaning you should always check before renting someone else’s bikes. Driving without insurance is serious business and can result in you being fined £300 and three penalty points.
You can’t have open alcohol in the car
It sounds obvious that you shouldn’t drink while driving, but strangely, there’s no law that says you can’t have open alcohol in your car or stop a passenger from drinking while driving. The law only applies to the amount of alcohol in the driver’s blood and you will only be prosecuted if you cross the border.
The only exception is that you can be prosecuted if you drink alcohol in a car while supervising a learner driver.
Using headphones is illegal
It seems silly to have anything that limits your hearing, but there’s no specific law against wearing headphones while driving. That doesn’t mean it makes sense, and Rule 148 of the Highway Code states that drivers should avoid distractions like loud music that could mask other noises. If police think you were distracted or not in full control of your vehicle because you were wearing headphones, they could charge you.