Motoring legal advice
Should I stop for an unmarked police car? Can I use my foglights all year round? This, and other legal questions answered
Will I be prosecuted if a hire car or work vehicle I drove wasn’t taxed?
Enforcement action is usually taken against the registered keeper of an untaxed car, not the driver. Regardless of the vehicle’s ownership, you as the driver have a responsibility to ensure the vehicle is road-legal.
It’s also worth noting that tax discs haven’t been issued since October 2014. The entire process is now taken care of online.
You can check that a vehicle is taxed online at gov.uk/check-vehicle-tax
One of the lights on my car is defective. Can I still drive it on the road until I can get it fixed?
The following assumes you aren’t towing a trailer. Generally speaking, an offence isn’t committed if the light stopped working during your journey or if you have already made plans to ensure it’s repaired as soon as possible.
However, there are significant and obvious safety implications for driving any vehicle with a defective light, so you should frequently check they operate correctly.
What are the rules for drivers in relation to advanced stop lines for cyclists at traffic lights?
Some traffic-light-controlled junctions have an advanced stop line – a second stop line for cyclists to position themselves in front of other traffic. These areas will often be highlighted in different-coloured tarmac and with a bicycle graphic painted on the road.
You can find an illustration in rule 178 of the Highway Code.
Drivers, including motorcyclists and scooter riders, must not cross the first stop line if the lights are red. Doing so could lead to a £100 fixed penalty and three penalty points on your driving license.
Should the lights change from green to amber, drivers, motorcyclists and scooter riders are permitted to stop in the marked area if they cannot safely stop before the first stop line. However, you must stop before the second stop line.
Drivers, motorcyclists and scooter riders must avoid blocking or encroaching on the marked area at other times, such as when the junction is blocked.
Cyclists are encouraged to cross the first line, but crossing the second line when the traffic signal is red could result in a £50 fine.
Can I take a 'selfie' while I’m driving?
The short answer is no. Taking a selfie when driving may lead to you being prosecuted for not being in full control of the vehicle or careless driving.
If you seriously injure or kill someone while taking a selfie, you could be convicted of causing death by dangerous driving, causing serious injury by dangerous driving or causing death by careless driving.
The Transport Research Laboratory has found any kind of mental, physical or visual distraction can affect your judgement and reaction times while driving.
What should I do if my car is stolen from a railway car park?
Railway car parks differ from most other car parks in that they fall under the jurisdiction of the British Transport Police. You should call their non-urgent crime reporting line on 0800 40 50 40.
However, if you have reason to consider the situation an emergency, then you should call 999.
What category of driving licence do I need to drive a motorhome?
You need a Category C1 driving licence to drive a motorhome with a maximum authorised mass (MAM) of between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes. Motorhomes with a MAM over 7.5 tonnes require a Category C licence.
Will I still be able to get car insurance if I have a conviction?
Car insurance companies will usually ask if you have any convictions, which you must answer truthfully. Failure to do so could lead to your cover being cancelled, and may mean your insurer will refuse to pay out in the event of a claim.
With a conviction, you may find your insurance premium increases. Every car insurer is different and will have a different view on insuring motorists with convictions.
Can I insure the same car with a number of different insurers?
No, as doing so could represent an offence depending on the circumstances.
However, there may be situations where it does arise. For example, if a policy won’t cover drivers under 25, another insurer may cover a younger driver on a different policy on the same car.
What information do I need to provide to the DVLA if I sell my car?
When you sell your vehicle, you must tell the DVLA immediately using the appropriate part of your V5C registration document, which is also called the logbook.
By law, it is the seller’s responsibility to tell the DVLA about a change of keeper. If you don’t, you’ll be committing an offence and will still be liable for the vehicle.
When selling to a private buyer, you should:
- Fill in section 6 of your V5C registration document (logbook) - Sign and date the declaration in section 8 and ensure the new keeper does likewise - Complete section 10 and give it to the new keeper - Keep a note of the new keeper’s name and address - Tear off sections 1 to 8 of the V5C and post it to: DVLA, Swansea, SA99 1BA
If you don’t have your V5C registration document, you must write to the DVLA and provide the following information:
- The vehicle’s make, model and registration number - The date of sale - Your signature
You must also check the new keeper completes a V62 application for a new registration certificate and sends it to the DVLA.
If you don’t have your V5C, the buyer should be aware that they won’t be able to tax the car or drive it on public roads until you get a replacement.
When selling to a motor trader (car dealer):
- Complete section 9 of the V5C and post it to the DVLA as the dealer doesn’t need this part and shouldn’t keep it. It is your responsibility to ensure section 9 is posted to the DVLA, even if the dealer offers to do it for you. - Give the rest of the V5C to the dealer - If the dealer keeps the whole V5C, you should write to the DVLA confirming the dealer’s details and the date it occurred. You can also do this at gov.uk/sold-bought-vehicle
A speed camera has flashed me. When will I know if I am going to get a ticket?
The police must serve your Notice of Intended Prosecution to arrive with the registered keeper within 14 days of the offence. As long as it is posted within the time limit, and posted first class, it is presumed to be “good service”, although this can be challenged. If the Notice of Intended Prosecution is served after 14 days, the offence cannot proceed in court.
Can I see the photographic evidence being used to issue a speeding ticket?
Most police forces will only release photographic evidence supporting a speeding offence if you challenge it and plead not guilty. If that’s the case, you’ll be sent the evidence, which will usually include both the photograph and/or a statement.
As with any other offence, the accused has the right to defend themselves. In order to do this, evidence of a breach of the law must be provided to the accused. There’s no specific requirement to what this evidence may be, but it must support the breach of the law and you will be able to have a fair hearing.
Should you plead not guilty, you’ll lose the right to pay the ticket and you will have to attend court.
Is it an offence not to carry all relevant documents when driving, so they can be produced for a police officer upon request?
Failure to produce your driving licence, certificate of insurance and MoT is an offence. However, it’s recommended that you don’t leave your documents in the car due to the risks associated with them being stolen.
As a result of this, the usual course of action is for a police officer to issue a HO/RT1 form – also called a ‘producer’. This will require you to produce the documents at a police station of your choice within seven days. If this is done, and the documents are in order, then the matter will be closed.
If you don’t present them within seven days, or they’re not in order, you’ll be reported for failing to produce the documents at the time of the request for production. You’ll then be summonsed to attend court.
Is it illegal to use a CB or two-way radio whilst driving?
It’s well known that it’s an offence to use a mobile phone or an ‘interactive communications device’ when driving, but what about CB or two-way radios?
The law has an exemption for two-way radios that are designed or adapted:
- for the purpose of transmitting and receiving spoken messages, and - operate on any frequency other than 880MHz to 915MHz, 925MHz to 960MHz, 1710MHz to 1785MHz, 1805MHz to 1880MHz, 1900MHz to 1980MHz or 2110MHz to 2170MHz
According to OFCOM, your CB should transmit in the 27MHz range – an exception created due to the frequencies used by taxis and some government organisations.
However, it’s important to note that any activity at the wheel, whether it’s using a two-way radio or changing a radio station, can increase the risk of a crash.
Even if you’re using a device that’s exempt from mobile phone legislation, with or without hands free, you can still be prosecuted for careless driving or dangerous driving if you’re driving badly. If you kill someone in a crash caused by speaking to someone on a mobile phone or CB radio, you can expect a lengthy prison sentence.
How many points can I have on my licence before I face a ban?
The current penalty-points system allows endorsements of varying severity to be applied to your licence. If you receive 12 penalty points within three years, you’ll face disqualification under the ‘totting up’ rules.
Drivers with nine or more penalty points are unable to accept any further fixed-penalty tickets, and must go to court.
If you acquire six penalty points within two years of passing your test, you’ll automatically have your licence revoked.
Penalty points can last either four or 11 years, depending on the offence.
I'm buying a secondhand car, but now that road tax is non-transferable, how do I tax it at the point of sale?
Recent changes to road-tax rules not only mean you no longer have to display a tax disc, but also that you can no longer pass on remaining tax to a new owner when you sell a car. That means if you’re buying a used car, you need to tax it immediately yourself. This can be done online, over the phone or in a Post Office.
To tax a car online, you’ll need to go to gov.uk/tax-disc. You’ll need to enter either:
- the 16-digit number on your vehicle tax renewal letter (V11),
- the 11-digit number on your vehicle’s log book (V5C), or
- the 12-digit number on your new keeper supplement (V5C/2), if you’ve just bought the car
You can opt to pay in full, or monthly by Direct Debit.
To tax a vehicle over the phone, you should call 0300 123 4321 (textphone 0300 790 6201). The automated process takes three to four minutes and calls are charged at the local rate.
You’ll need the same information as you would applying online, such as the reference number on your V11 or V5C. You can pay using your credit or debit card.
You can still tax your vehicle at a Post Office, although not all outlets still offer the service. You’ll need to take:
- your completed V11 reminder, V5C log book or new keeper supplement (V5C/2)
- your valid MoT test certificate, if required
- payment, as shown on the reminder
Motorists in Northern Ireland also need an insurance certificate or cover note.
Do there have to be signs to warn motorists that there are speed cameras (both fixed and mobile)?
There’s no law to say fixed or mobile speed cameras need to be marked, signed or at a particular position. Police forces have codes of practice and best-practice guides – but these are policies, not the law.
Is it illegal to reverse a car onto a main road from a minor road?
While it’s not illegal to reverse from a minor road onto a main road, it certainly isn’t advisable. As their name suggests, main roads tend to be busier than minor roads, meaning there’s an increased chance of a crash.
If a collision occurs as a result of you reversing onto a main road, you may be prosecuted for driving without due care and attention.
Do I have to report to the police a collision that happened in a car park?
There are certain circumstances in which you have to stop and provide your details. In some instances, you may be asked to produce your insurance certificate. If you’re unable to do this, you must report the incident to the police – it’s an offence not to.
You must do this if you’re the driver of a ‘mechanically propelled vehicle’ such as a car, motorcycle, bus or lorry, that has been involved in a crash on the road or in a public place if:
– Someone other than yourself is injured
– Damage is caused to another vehicle or to someone else's property, such as street lamps, signs or bollards
– An animal, other than one in your own vehicle or trailer, has been killed or injured. Animals are defined here as any horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog
It’s important to note that some car parks, such as supermarket car parks and some multi-storey car parks, are classed as public places. Car parks belonging to private organisations where members of the public wouldn’t ordinarily be permitted aren’t classed as public places. Accidents occurring there should be reported directly to your insurance company. If in doubt, you should report the matter to the police and be guided by their advice.
When can I park on a single yellow line?
A single yellow line is normally placed to prevent parked vehicles causing an obstruction and putting you, and other road users, at risk. Signs in a single-yellow-line zone will identify the times when you can’t park there. This is often between 8am and 6pm, but you should always check the sign prior to parking. You could be fined for parking illegally, or even have your car towed away.
When can I use the horn in my car?
You should only use your car horn to warn someone of danger – not to indicate annoyance or attract the attention of other road users or passers-by. It shouldn’t be used when your car is stationary – unless another vehicle on or near the road presents a danger. Horns should also not be used on a restricted road – one that has street lights and a 30mph speed limit – between 11:30pm and 7am.
What types of vehicle aren’t allowed in the outside lane of a motorway?
Certain types of vehicle aren’t permitted to use the right-hand lane, also called the outside lane, when three or more lanes are open for use by traffic travelling in the same direction.
– Goods vehicles with a maximum laden weight of more than 7.5 tonnes
– Goods vehicles with a maximum laden weight of more than 3.5 tonnes but less than 7.5 tonnes that require a speed limiter
– Passenger vehicles constructed or adapted to carry more than eight seated passengers in addition to the driver, with a maximum laden weight of more than 7.5 tonnes
– Passenger vehicles constructed or adapted to carry more than eight seated passengers in addition to the driver, with a maximum laden weight of less than 7.5 tonnes, that require a speed limiter
– A motor vehicle towing a trailer
– A motor tractor, light locomotive or heavy locomotive
Naturally, there are exceptions to this:
– When it’s necessary for the vehicle to pass another vehicle carrying or towing a load of exceptional width
– When not moving into the outside lane would cause someone danger of injury, or inconvenience other traffic
Can I park on the pavement?
In England, local authorities can prohibit parking on the pavement. If so, signs will state the roads where parking on the pavement is specifically prohibited. The penalty for contravening this will be a fixed penalty notice.
Parking a vehicle on the pavement could constitute an offence of obstruction, leading to a fixed penalty notice. This can cause a particular danger and nuisance for pedestrians and wheelchair users.
It is an offence to drive on the pavement – something that will have occurred in order to park a vehicle on a pavement – but witnesses will likely have to be sought in order to secure a prosecution. This can be tricky.
What should I do if an unmarked police car is flashing me to stop?
The following advice is for anyone who feels vulnerable being asked to stop. If you’re with companions or feel comfortable in stopping this advice may not be for you.
Although an unmarked police car can stop vehicles, it must contain a constable in uniform in order to carry out that stop.
If you are flashed by an unmarked car as an instruction to pull over or stop, you are permitted to drive steadily to the nearest public place, such as an open petrol station, police station or any other location where there are a lot of people.
If you are in a relatively deserted area, consider looking for an occupied house and pull into their driveway. You can explain to the householder later.
If you’re not able to stop in a public area, you should signal and acknowledge that you have been asked to stop. Never speed off as the police could think you’re trying to get away.
Once you’ve stopped, stay in the car and lock the doors. If you have a mobile phone, keep it nearby just in case you need it. You can request to see the police officer’s warrant card, which should include their name and photograph, through the closed window.
If you are suspected of drink or drug driving, none of these actions would invalidate an officer giving you a preliminary test as you have only temporarily interrupted your journey and are still driving for the purposes of that law.
Can my child use their electric scooter, go-ped, mini-moto, hoverboard or Segway on the road or pavement?
Despite often being sold as toys, electric scooters, go-peds, mini-motos, hoverboards and Segways may all be considered as motor vehicles in legal terms. That means they could be subject to all the usual requirements that also apply to cars or motorcycles such as tax, insurance, registration and licensing and driver licensing.
They can’t be used on a road unless they conform to the law. Many such vehicles will never be 'road legal' as their design fails to meet UK or EC road vehicle standards. These vehicles can’t be used on the pavement legally either.
The only place they can be used is on private land with the landowner's permission.
Because such vehicles are small, many falsely believe them to be toys and therefore exempt from the law. The legislation doesn’t exempt toys and the physical size of the vehicle has no bearing on whether it is a toy or not.
If these vehicles are used on the road or pavement, the rider may be committing a range of offences. Their parent/guardians may also face prosecution for aiding and abetting or permitting the offences.
What happens if I get points on my provisional licence or as newly qualified driver?
Your driving licence will automatically be revoked if you receive six or more penalty points within two years of passing your first driving test.
To get your licence back, you will need to apply and pay for a new provisional driving licence, drive as a learner would – with L-plates and under the supervision of a suitably qualified driver – and pass both parts of your driving theory test as well as your practical test.
It is possible to acquire penalty points on a provisional licence before you pass your driving test. If you receive more points after passing your test that take your total to six or more, your licence can be revoked.
Having your licence revoked when you have acquired six or more penalty points does not 'wipe the slate clean'. Penalty points last for three years so any live points will still be shown on your licence when you get it back.
Revocation only applies where the offence that causes the points to total six or more is committed during your probationary period - two years after passing your test. If you receive six or more points before you take your test, you can still pass and obtain your licence. But if you receive any more within two years of passing, your licence will be revoked.
If you receive 12 or more points within a three year period, you will be liable to be disqualified – usually for at least 6 months.
Can I use my fog lights when it's not foggy?
You can only use front or rear fog lights when visibility is seriously reduced as they can dazzle other road users. Rear fog lights can obscure your brake lights.
You must switch all fog lights off when visibility improves.
Rule 226 of Highway Code says: “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.”
Can I go on a speed awareness course instead of having points on my licence?
If you’ve been caught speeding, you may be offered the opportunity to attend a speed awareness course rather than being issued with penalty points and a fine.Whether you’re eligible for a speed awareness course depends largely on the prosecuting police force. These are the guidelines operated by one police force:
- You have admitted to being the driver of the vehicle at the time of the alleged offence and returned the documentation within the 28-day period calculated from the date the notice was sent to you. - No more than 12 weeks have elapsed since the date of the alleged offence. - There were no further offences committed at the time of the alleged offence. - You have not attended a speed awareness course within the 3 years prior to the current offence. - You were driving at a speed that qualifies as per the table below.
|Limit||Device tolerance||Fixed Penalty when education is not appropriate||Speed Awareness if appropriate||Summons in all other cases and above|
|20 mph||22 mph||24 mph||24 mph||31 mph||35 mph|
|30 mph||32 mph||35 mph||35 mph||42 mph||50 mph|
|40 mph||42 mph||46 mph||46 mph||53 mph||66 mph|
|50 mph||52 mph||57 mph||57 mph||64 mph||76 mph|
|60 mph||62 mph||68 mph||68 mph||75 mph||86 mph|
|70 mph||73 mph||79 mph||79 mph||86 mph||96 mph|
|All speeds identified above are those shown on the speed device, speedometer or other detection devices|
The National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme website provides information about all speed awareness course centres and providers in England and Wales.
There are no speed awareness courses in Scotland.
What is the national speed limit?
The national speed limit varies depending on the type of road you’re on and the type (or category) of vehicle you’re driving.
You can identify a road with the national speed limit by a white circular sign with a black strip running diagonally across it from right to left.
- If you are on a dual carriageway and driving a car or motorcycle the national limit is 70mph - If you are on a single carriageway and driving a car or motorcycle the national speed limit is 60mph
The national speed limit is 10mph less than those mentioned above for:
- Non-car-based vans - Vehicles with more than eight passenger seats
As with any other speed limit, the national speed limit is the maximum speed you are allowed to travel at – it doesn’t mean it’s safe to drive at that speed irrespective of road conditions.
Driving too fast for the road and traffic conditions is always dangerous. Always reduce your speed when:
- The road layout or condition presents hazards, such as bends - Sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists or horse riders, particularly children, and motorcyclists - Weather conditions make it safer to do so - Driving at night, as it is more difficult to see other road users
Is there a difference between the registered keeper and the owner of a vehicle?
Yes. The DVLA makes a point of saying that the person named on the registration document (V5C – also known as the logbook) is not necessarily the owner.
The registration document (V5) is not proof of ownership. The registered keeper should be the person who uses the vehicle, and so isn’t necessarily the vehicle’s owner or the person paying for it.
The registered keeper is responsible for the vehicle, and will be the person who correspondence from the police or DVLA will be directed to. The owner is the person who paid, or is paying for, the vehicle. If you’re the owner and not the regular user or keeper, you should change the details on your V5C.
Company car usage and ownership illustrates this best. The vehicle could be owned by the company, but the registration document should show the employee who uses the car day-to-day as the registered keeper.
If a car is used by a married couple, joint ownership of most property is assumed. That means if the husband were stopped for driving without insurance, the police would likely accept he was the joint over and not pursue the wife for additional offences, such as an owner permitting no insurance.
Insurance companies usually insure the vehicle’s primary user, and can insist that that person is also the registered keeper.
Someone has parked his or her car and it is blocking my driveway
Local authorities have responsibility for the enforcement for parking offences in many – but not all – counties in England and Wales. Parking on a dropped kerb over a driveway is one such offence.
Should a vehicle block access to your driveway, you should speak to your neighbours in the first instance. It may be one of their friends, relatives, or a tradesman. If you’re unable to find out, contact your local authority’s parking enforcement team.
Your local authority will tell you if responsibility for dealing with the issue still lies with your local police force. If so, you’ll need to contact them instead.
Policy may vary from force to force and council to council; some may only attend if your car is blocked in and you can’t get out.
Someone has left a car on my land, what should I do?
It is an offence to immobilise, move or restrict the movement of a vehicle in a way that prevents someone from removing the vehicle concerned (although that person must be entitled to remove it).
That means an offence may be committed if a landowner clamps or tows away the vehicle. To be guilty of that offence, they must have the intention of preventing the movement of the vehicle by someone entitled to do so.
That means it’s possible for a landowner to move an obstructively parked car a short distance to gain access to their property, as long as it isn’t positioned in such away that the driver of the vehicle is prevented from subsequently retrieving it. You must take every care to show there was no intention of denying the vehicle’s driver the opportunity to remove it.
Some individuals have lawful authority to immobilise, move or restrict the movement of a vehicle. These include the police, local authorities, traffic wardens, parking attendants and civil enforcement officers.
Policies may vary from region to region as to who undertakes such a role in relation to private land, but you should contact your local police or local authority to check who will take responsibility for its removal. The duty to remove a vehicle arises where it appears to them that the vehicle has been abandoned without lawful authority. If the vehicle looks stolen (e.g. it has damage to the locks), then contact the police who will make further enquiries.
If you want to move the vehicle yourself, or make arrangements for this to be done, you should give the owner of the vehicle a reasonable amount of time (say, 14 days) to remove it. You can place a notice on the car stating that if the car is still there after 14 days you will have it moved or removed. State the reason why the vehicle will be removed (i.e. it is obstructing the lawful use of private land) and where you intend to move the vehicle to.
If the vehicle has number plates, you can complete the DVLA’s Form V888. As long as the request is legitimate, the DVLA will provide you with the registered keeper’s contact details. Write to them to inform them of your plans, send the letter as recorded delivery and keep a copy for yourself.
Once you have given reasonable notice that the car will be towed away, the reasons for it being towed away and its intended destination, then it is likely that you will have avoided liability under the aforementioned offence. In effect you will have shown that there was no intention of preventing or inhibiting the driver of the vehicle from retrieving their vehicle.