Male and female with two young children packing up red car.

Car rules in the UK

Are you up to date with the latest driving laws? Avoid fines and fixed penalty notices with this handy guide to staying legal on the road.

Keeping up to date with driving rules

It can be hard to keep up with driving laws in the UK but understanding them is part and parcel of being a safe, responsible driver. Here’s our overview of car rules in the UK.

Your vehicle

Your vehicle must be safe to drive, which means it should be kept in good working order. You can be fined £2,500, banned from driving and given three penalty points for driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition.

Your vehicle must have a valid MOT and yearly servicing is also recommended. As a driver, you’re responsible for checking your lights and brakes work, the windscreens, windows and mirrors are clean and your tyres have at least a 1.6mm tread (which is about the width of a 20p piece).

Being fit to drive

Driving requires intense concentration, so there may be times you shouldn't get behind the wheel. Under UK car rules, the two main reasons you can be unfit to drive are:

  1. Driving when unfit through drink or drugs

    Alcohol and drugs affect your ability to process information, so it's harder to notice hazards or control physical movements, like pressing a pedal.

    In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, to be safe to drive you must be under 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. But alcohol in your system varies according to your size, sex, metabolism, stress level and what you've been eating, so it can be hard to know whether you're over the limit or not.

    It's best to avoid alcohol completely and if you've had a heavy night drinking, you should always allow enough time for it to clear from your system before driving the next day.

    It's also illegal to drive if you've taken drugs - either illegal drugs (like cannabis and cocaine) or prescription drugs. If the police stop you they can carry out spot tests, like checking you can walk in a straight line, or they'll using a drug testing kit.

  2. Driving when medically unfit

    Certain medical conditions or treatments may prevent you from driving. For example, you might be on medication that makes you drowsy, or have an injured limb.

    Doctors have to tell the DVLA if a patient is driving against their advice and they don’t need patient consent to do this. And you're legally required to tell the DVLA about any medical condition that could affect your ability to drive.

    You should also use your common sense. If you're not feeling well, feel sleep deprived or feel very stressed or upset – don't get behind the wheel.

Driving with enough care

Some people start to drive carelessly once they've passed their driving test, such as using a phone, cutting up other drivers or driving too close to the car in front. They can also start taking more risks. This includes driving too fast, ignoring traffic signals, overtaking in dangerous ways or driving a car that's unsafe or overloaded.

Inexperienced male drivers are at particular risk. Males aged 17-20 are 17 times more likely to be involved in a crash than male drivers overall, when driving between 2am-5am.

Penalties for driving offences

Here are some of the most common driving offences in the UK, and what penalties they could incur.

Offence Maximum penalty penalty points
Death by dangerous driving 14 years' imprisonment, unlimited fine, obligatory disqualification for at least two years 3-11
Dangerous driving 2 years' imprisonment, unlimited fine, obligatory disqualification 3-11
Causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs 14 years' imprisonment, unlimited fine, obligatory disqualification for at least two years 3-11
Careless and inconsiderate driving Unlimited fine, discretionary disqualification 3-9
Failure to stop after an accident or failure to report an accident 6 months' imprisonment, unlimited fine, discretionary disqualification 5-10
Driving while disqualified 6 month' imprisonment, unlimited fine, discretionary disqualification 6
Driving without insurance Unlimited fine, discretionary disqualification 6-8
Using a mobile phone while driving £1,000 fine, discretionary disqualification 6
Speeding £1,000 fine (£2,500 for motorway offences), discretionary disqualification 3-6 or 3 if fixed penalty
Driving a vehicle in a dangerous condition £2,500 fine, possible disqualification 3

Keep up your driving skills

Passing your test doesn’t mean you know everything. You should still check the Highway Code regularly and could take an advanced driving course like the Pass Plus scheme. This might even reduce the cost of your insurance!

Driving laws are updated regularly, so you must make sure to keep up to date. For example, driving with a mobile phone used to be legal, but it’s now an offence and the penalties have been increased over time.

Driving laws are just one part of being a responsible driver - check out our other handy motoring guides to help you stay safe on the road.

All information is correct at the time of publication. Hastings Direct cannot be held responsible for any misinformation displayed.

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