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UK Driving Laws

Dangerous driving has been highlighted in the headlines recently, following the results from the recent Highways England campaign that caught over 4,000 drivers committing driving offences.

In light of this, here is a quick overview of the various UK road laws:

Rule 148 - Smoking in vehicles with children

Drivers in England and Wales must not smoke or allow anyone to smoke when in an enclosed private vehicle if someone under 18 is onboard.

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

  • A £50 fine

Rule 90 - Health conditions

Any health condition likely to affect your driving must be reported to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

  • A £1,000 fine or even prosecution

Rule 92 - Sight

Those required to wear either glasses or contact lenses in order to read a vehicle number plate, in good daylight, from a distance of 20 metres (or 20.5 metres when an old style number plate is used) must wear them whenever they are driving.

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

  • A £1,000 fine, three penalty points or a discretionary disqualification

Rule 95 - Drink driving

Those in England and Wales must not drive if they:

  1. Have a breath alcohol level higher than 35 microgrammes/100 millilitres of breath, or
  2. Have a blood alcohol level of more than 80 milligrammes/100 millitres of blood.

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

Drink-driving penalties come in various guises. They are as follows:

  • If you are found to be driving or attempting to drive while above the legal limit or unfit through drink, you may receive:
  • 6 months’ imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban of at least one year (though this will rise to three years if convicted twice in ten years)
  • If you cause death by careless driving and found to be under the influence of drink, you may receive:
  • 14 years’ imprisonment
  • An unlimited fine
  • A driving ban of at least two years

Rule 96 - Prescribed drugs

It is against the law to drive while under the influence of drugs or medicine. In regards to medicine, drivers should consult with their doctor about whether they should drive when prescribed to any of the following drugs:

  • Amphetamines (including Dexamphetamine or Selegiline)
  • Clonazepam
  • Diazepam
  • Flunitrazepam
  • Lorazepam
  • Methadone
  • Morphine or Opiate and Opioid-based drugs (including Codeine, Tramadol and Fentanyl)
  • Oxazepam
  • Temazepam

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

  • A driving ban that will last for at least one year
  • An unlimited fine
  • Up to six months in prison
  • A criminal record
  • A conviction for drug driving appearing on your driving licence for 11 years

Rule 99 - Seat belts

A seat belt must be worn in cars, vans and other goods vehicles where they are fitted. Furthermore, a seat belt or child restraint must be used by adults and children aged 14 years and over when seated in buses, coaches and minibuses, where they are fitted. There are exemptions to this law, which are:

  • Holders of medical exemption certificates
  • Anyone making deliveries or collections in goods vehicles where they travel less than 50 metres

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

  • A £100 on-the-spot fine or a maximum fine of £500 if prosecuted

Rule 105 - School crossings

Signs used by school crossing patrols must be obeyed (as well as those provided by police officers, traffic officers and traffic wardens).

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

Fail to stop when the Stop sign is held upright by a patrol officer in the correct uniform and you could be:

  • Fined up to £1,000.
  • Given three penalty points on your driving licence.

Rule 109 - Traffic lights/signs

All traffic light signals and traffic signs giving orders must be obeyed — this includes temporary signals and signs.

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

Cross the first stop line when a traffic light is on red and you could be faced with:

  • A £100 fixed penalty
  • Three penalty points on your driving licence

Rule 124 - Speed limits

The maximum speed limit for a road and for a vehicle should never be exceeded. These speed limits are as follows, unless otherwise stated:

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

The minimum penalty for a speeding offence is

  • £100 fine
  • Three penalty points on your driving licence

Rule 141 - Bus lanes

Unless indicated to do so, you should never drive in a bus lane during its period of operation.

Potential consequences of breaking the law

An initial penalty of £60 is issued when this law is first broken – however, this charge is reduced to £30 if payment is made within 14 days of the date of notice, though increased to £90 if a driver has failed to pay the charge within 28 days.

Rule 149 - Mobile phones

A hand-held mobile phone or similar device must not be used when driving or supervising a learner driver. The only exceptions to this rule is to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is either impractical or unsafe to stop.

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

An initial and automatic penalty of £100 is issued when a drive is caught using a handheld mobile behind the wheel, alongside three penalty points applied to your driving licence. However, if the case goes to court then the maximum fine could be £1,000 and the offender could also be disqualified from driving. Furthermore, those driving goods vehicles or buses are faced with a maximum fine of £2,500.


There are various rules related to parking a vehicle in the UK — see rules 238 to 252 of The Highway Code by clicking here for full details.

Potential consequences of breaking the law:

Parking tickets or penalty charge notices vary depending on the area parked and the company issuing the penalty. Generally, you will have 28 days to pay the charge from the date it was issued, with the fine sometimes reduced by 50 per cent if settled within 14 days. The risk of receiving penalty points on your driving licence in relation to parking offences only applies to certain situations, such as when a vehicle has been left in a dangerous position.

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. This article is merely a general comment on the relevant topic.

Published on 6th March 2018
(Last updated 7th September 2018)

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