Over three quarters of UK road users think they’re safe drivers, according to our recent survey1. Our research, which investigated attitudes towards safe driving in the UK, revealed that eight out of 10 people do their best to follow the rules of the road.
However, we delved a little deeper, and discovered that in fact many of these rules are misunderstood by motorists. We spoke to Iain Temperton, Director of Communications for Road Safety GB, to investigate some of the most common driving myths, and the overall impact these beliefs might be having on how safe we are on the roads.
Rumour has it: driving truths and myths
You can use your horn to let people know they’re doing something wrong: MYTH
Do you get frustrated when the lights have changed and the driver ahead hasn’t noticed? Although honking your horn could get their attention, it can also be a sign of aggressive driving. Iain highlights that “the horn is there to warn other road users of your presence,” and not for anything else. If the police catch you using your horn incorrectly, you may have to pay a penalty of £30.
You can get in trouble for driving with your fog lights on when it’s not foggy: TRUTH
Although many drivers believe this to be a myth, Iain clarifies that it is in fact “an offence for fog lights to be used at any time other than in conditions of seriously reduced visibility.” The Highway Code2, warns against using fog lights, “unless visibility is seriously reduced, as they dazzle other road users and can obscure your brake lights.” It’s quite easy to forget you’ve left the fog lights on from the night before, so make sure you check them before leaving your home.
It’s acceptable to drive up to 10% over the speed limit: MYTH
If the driver has no control over their vehicle, or the driver isn’t paying attention, any speed can be fatal – whether the speed’s 10% over or not.
Stick to the indicated speed of your vehicle. If you start adding in your own equation you are edging ever closer to having your photo taken.
It’s fine to drive bare foot or with flip-flops on: MYTH
It’s difficult to drive if your feet keep slipping off the pedals, and you’ll have less control of your vehicle. The Highway Code states "you must exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times.” Iain explains that this means “a police officer has the discretion to pursue a prosecution if the driver loses control of their vehicle, for whatever reason.”
Remember, wearing flip-flops whilst driving means you haven’t got full control of your car and you can get in trouble for not wearing appropriate footwear. Keep a spare pair of shoes in the car, so that you can quickly change out of your flip-flops before starting a journey.
Men have fewer road accidents than women: MYTH
Iain tells us that studies show that “mile for mile women crash less.” According to the Department for Transport3, 62% of people involved in collisions are men, compared to 38% of women.
Young drivers cause the most road accidents: MYTH
According to our survey, nearly three quarters of people believe that 17-24 year olds are most likely to be in a collision on the road. The reality is, according to the Department of Transport, that 17-24 year old drivers are involved in 15% of reported collisions, and the 40-59 age group is involved in a reported 30% of crashes.
However, Iain still warns that “your brain doesn't finish developing until your mid 20's,” and “the last part of the brain to settle into place is the area that controls risk.” This may explain why some younger drivers display ‘riskier’ behaviour than older road users.
You can get in trouble for driving too slow: TRUTH
There’s no law that says you will get in trouble for driving too slow, but “policing units will take an interest in any driver who is excessively slow,” says Iain. Be aware of your speed wherever you are, but don’t drive so slow that it becomes a hazard to other road users.
If the car’s at a stand-still it’s okay to use your mobile phone: MYTH
The Highway Code states that “you must not use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, when driving or when supervising a learner driver, except to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency.” It may seem harmless making a quick call to the office when there’s traffic at a stand-still, but it’s a motoring offence to use your phone at any point behind the wheel. Iain advises drivers to “park in a safe, legal and convenient place and switch off the ignition to make the call.”
Driving after one drink doesn’t affect you: MYTH
Everyone is affected by alcohol in different ways. If you feel fine, it doesn’t mean there’s less alcohol in your system. One pint will have a different effect on the blood alcohol content for different people, so there’s no guarantee you’ll be safe to drive or you’ll be under the legal limit.
If you’re caught drink-driving, police will decide if you’re fit to drive based on the alcohol levels in your blood-stream. If caught, you could risk up to 14 years imprisonment, an unlimited fine and a driving ban for a minimum of a year. Iain tells us that “one pint might take you over the limit. Or it might be two, you just can't tell.” If you’ve been driving and decide you’d like a drink, consider your options.
Driving myths busted
Old habits can be hard to kick, but now you know the reality behind some of those well-known driving myths. As a general rule, anything that draws your attention away from the road ahead can contribute to you getting in trouble if you’re in a collision on the road. Thames Valley Police told us that “95% of all road crashes are due to human error,” so stopping some of these bad driving behaviours will improve your driving safety, and will mean you’re less likely to be involved in a collision."
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Is your FOMO affecting your driving? Find out the real dangers associated with using your mobile while driving here.
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Sometimes the safer we feel, the more dangerous our driving is. Read on to find out the reasoning behind this paradox.
Additional SourcesAn exclusive survey of 1,094 British drivers conducted online by YouGov for Aviva in conjunction with the Telegraph on 7-9 December 2015.
The Highway Code
Department for Transport: Reported Road Casualties Great Britain: 2014 Annual Report