Driving Myths: What Can I Do While Driving?


14 June 2019

By Elizabeth Bradshaw

“What can I do when I get behind the wheel?”

There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to driving. Here are a few that might surprise you..

1. Eating

Although it is not a specific offence to eat whilst you drive, as with many of the following points, you may face prosecution if the police consider that you are distracted and therefore not in proper control of your vehicle .

You may be charged with careless driving (also known as driving without due care and attention).

This is legally defined as “allowing your standard of driving to fall below that of a prudent motorist”. This offence is often used as a “catch all” and can cover various driving errors, regardless of whether an accident occurs or not. The offence (if not resolved by way of a 3 point / £100 Fixed Penalty) carries:

A fine up to £5000;
3–9 penalty points; or
A discretionary disqualification

A charge of dangerous driving can occur if “the standard falls far below that of a prudent motorist”.

It must also be obvious that there was a risk of personal injury or serious damage. In 2016, Elsa Harris was convicted of careless driving after a police officer saw her eating a banana, whilst sitting in traffic. The officer reported seeing Ms Harris take her hand off the wheel while stationary so she could unpeel her fruit snack. She appealed against the on-the-spot fine, insisting that she was in control of her car at all times – but at the last moment decided she had to plead guilty because she was destined to lose in court.

After admitting the charge of driving without due care and attention at Weymouth magistrates’ court, Ms Harris, 45, received an increased fine and penalty points

2. Drinking

Once again, drinking a soft beverage whilst behind the wheel is not a specific offence but may lead the police to believe that you are not in control. This could mean that the same penalties are imposed.

It is advisable to stay hydrated whilst driving, especially on long journeys. Keep a bottle of water or other soft drink in your vehicle.  Plan your journey to include regular refreshment breaks and avoid dehydration.

3. Smoking

It is not a specific offence to smoke whilst driving but several other factors come in to play. As with eating and drinking, you may face prosecution if you are accused of not being in control of your vehicle.

There is also the issue of passengers who are under the age of 18 to consider. It is an offence to smoke in a vehicle with children in it, due to laws created to prevent ‘passive’ smoking.

It is also an offence to smoke in a vehicle used for work, since legislation banned smoking in places of employment in 2006.

However, there are very few recorded incidents of prosecution for either smoking with children in a vehicle or smoking in a work vehicle.

4. Hands-Free Phone Systems

Hand-held devices are illegal to use whilst driving. The police charge many motorists with this offence, which carries six penalty points on your driving licence and a fine of £200.

Therefore, many drivers use hands-free devices so that they do not miss important calls. Drivers must ensure that any such device is set up and in place before they begin a journey. You may not in any way interact with your mobile phone whilst driving, even if it is only to press the answer button.

Research suggests that even hands-free use of our phones whilst driving is detrimental to concentration levels.

5. Satellite Navigation

If you safely position your satellite navigation system so that it does not impair your field of vision, the use of such a system will not be deemed as a distraction.

Ensure that you programme the system before setting off on a journey, and if you need to make any alterations to the destination, stop your vehicle in a safe area and re-programme it. Do not interfere with your satnav whilst operating your vehicle.

This can lead to the same penalties as when caught using your mobile phone.

6. Headphones

Although it is not a criminal offence to wear headphones whilst driving, the possible implications should be considered. Driving is an activity which can require more than just eyesight.

Being able to hear what is going on whilst driving can be important.  You may be unable to hear emergency vehicles, regular road users and other audible cues that help us to stay safe on the road.

7. Interior Light

It is a common misconception that driving with an interior light on in a vehicle is against the law. It is not. However, if police believe that the light is distracting you or other motorists, then you may be charged with careless driving. This may occur if the white interior light is visible to cars that are behind you. Only your red rear lights and brake lights should be visible to vehicles following you.

Due to the positioning of interior lights, this is unlikely to be an issue.

8. The ‘Safe’ Drink- Drive Limit

It is a common misconception that there is a universally safe limit when it comes to consuming alcohol and then driving. Many people believe that two beers or a large glass of wine would leave them ‘under’ the drink drive limit.

The drink-drive limits in England and Wales are:

35 Micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath



80 Milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood



107 Milligrammesof alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine



Alcohol affects people in different ways. The way that our bodies process alcohol differs from person to person. Factors such as gender, weight, medication and whether you have eaten or not can have an effect on how your body processes the alcohol.

With no hard and fast rules regarding a safe drink-drive limit, it is not advisable to drive after consuming any amount of alcohol.

9. Open Alcohol Containers

Although there are strict drink-drive laws in the UK, which can lead to substantial fines and disqualifications, it is not an offence to carry open containers of alcohol within the vehicle. A passenger may consume alcohol whilst the driver operates the vehicle.

10. Speed Cameras

Another common myth is that all speed cameras flash when recording speeding motorists. The truth is there are many different types camera that are used to record speed. One particular type of camera does flash when motorists have passed it, driving at excess speed. This camera is a “Gatso”. 

Other cameras use different methods such as infrared beams pointed at oncoming vehicles to gauge speed.

11. 10% Over the Speed Limit

You may have heard that there is a 10% ‘allowance’ when police are deciding if a motorist has been speeding. For example, if the speed limit is 40mph, the police will not pursue a prosecution if the speed recorded is up to 44mph. This is not strictly true. Police can pursue a prosecution for any speed over the prescribed limit. However, they will usually take into account factors such as speedometer error and driver concentration which allows for marginal speeding.

This is not a legal right; it is at the officer’s discretion.

12. Driving Other Vehicles On a Fully-Comprehensive Policy

You may be permitted to drive a car that is not listed on your policy. This used to be very common on fully-comprehensive policies. This is known as ‘Driving other cars’ or DOC cover. However, this practice is less common now and usually only at the customer’s request and extra expense.

If you are unsure it is best to check your insurance policy. If you do have DOC cover, it is only for emergency use and insurance claims may be affected if you are driving another vehicle without a good reason.

For more information..

Please contact Liz Bradshaw on 01206 369889 or via e-mail: motoringenq@gepp.co.uk