Do you remember The Highway Code? You know, that book we study religiously so we can pass our driving test, and then it never sees the light of day again. Let’s face it, most of their ‘rules of road’ are normally very quickly forgotten once we’ve passed our tests, as we deal with all the other road users who have forgotten the contents as well.
Is The Highway Code the law?
No, as it stands alone, The Highway Code is not law. However, many of its ‘rules’ are backed up by law, and if you disobey those rules you will be committing a criminal offence.
The rules in the Code, that are supported by the law can be identified by the use of the words ‘MUST’ and ‘MUST NOT’ instead of ‘should’ and ‘should not’. These rules also include reference to the legislation they relate to.
Here are five ‘rules of the road’ that drivers are wont to ignore, but are, in fact, enforceable by law:
You’ve pulled up on the road outside the shop, your passenger jumps out to run and buy that pint of milk, and you sit there with the engine running.
You’re only going to be a few minutes, so you don’t need to turn the engine off, right?
Rule 123 of The Highway Code states that: “You MUST NOT leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.”
The rule goes on to state that if you are likely to remain stationary for more than a couple for minutes, you should switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution. The only time when it is permissible to leave the engine running is when you are in traffic or for diagnosing faults.
Obviously, if you are in traffic and it seems obvious that you may not be moving for some time, drivers should use a common sense approach and switch off the engine.
Don’t be a litterbug
We’ve all seen people do it. Those drivers, and passengers, who carelessly toss their rubbish out of their car window as it’s moving along.
Aside from all the environmental arguments, especially with the climate emergency being top of the agenda these days, it’s actually illegal to throw rubbish out of your car.
Rule 147 of the Code states: “You MUST NOT throw anything out of a vehicle; for example, food or food packaging, cigarette ends, cans, paper or carrier bags. This can endanger other road users, particularly motorcyclists and cyclists.”
Why would people do this anyway? (Answers in the comments below)
Ok, hands up, who’s simply just driven over those painted mini-roundabouts? Especially if there’s no one coming the other way.
This is something we’ve probably all done, but guess what? Unless you’re driving a large vehicle, and a 4×4 doesn’t count as such, this could actually land you in trouble.
Rule 188 states the following: “All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so. Remember, there is less space to manoeuvre and less time to signal.”
Something else most drivers have probably done is make a U-turn at a mini-roundabout. Yes? You might want to think twice about that as well. Although it’s not strictly a ‘MUST NOT’, the rule is written as ‘avoid’.
Lights and weather
Why do drivers:
a) Forget to put their lights on when it’s foggy, or raining really hard?
b) Put their fog lights on in bright sunshine, or at night?
Let’s face it, when it comes to fog, you’ve walked out of the house to get into the car and can see the weather, why would you not put your lights on? Do you have a death wish?
And in most cars it’s impossible to activate fog lights unless the lights are on, so why, unless you’ve accidentally nudged the ‘on’ switch, would you drive around in broad daylight with your fog lights or headlights glaring?
These are two of driving’s biggest unanswered questions, and again, if you know the answer to these conundrums, answers welcome in the comments below.
However, in either scenario, you are committing an offence.
Rule 226 states: “You MUST use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You may also use front or rear fog lights but you MUST switch them off when visibility improves.”
Likewise, Rule 236 states: “You MUST NOT use front or rear fog lights unless visibility is seriously reduced (see Rule 226) as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights. You MUST switch them off when visibility improves.”
How difficult is it for drivers to remember a simple rule: “If you can’t see your hand in front of your face, put your lights on and if it’s a bright sunny day, turn your lights off.”? (Unless you’re driving a car that automatically turns the lights, when you switch the engine on, e.g., Volvo)
Parking wholly or partially on pavements has been making the news recently, with many councils now stepping in to take measures against it.
In this instance, according to The Highway Code Rule 244, in London it is illegal, but everywhere else the rule is that you should not, unless it is specified that you can.
However, there is a big difference between parking a little on the kerb to keep your vehicle out of the way of traffic and blocking the pavement entirely causing an obstruction which can seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.
So, unless you’re in London, it’s advisable to use common sense.
Now I want to hear from you?
Did you know any of these rules were enforceable by law?
What other rules do you know that are, but aren’t mentioned here?
Let me know in the comments right now.