From driving in flip-flops to the velocity that actually triggers speed cameras and radiator repairs using eggs, there are a host of motoring myths – many of them related to driving to a holiday destination for the family’s annual break.
Here we sift through popular opinions to divide the true from the truly fanciful.
Myth: Driving barefoot or wearing flip-flops is illegal
Truth: You can wear whatever you like on your feet, and that includes nothing at all. However, the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), which oversees UK driver training, warns: “Suitable shoes are particularly important behind the wheel. We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”
Myth: You can break into a car to release an overheating pet
Truth: Technically speaking if you break into a car to release a distressed pet, it would be classed as criminal damage. And that could end in a visit to court. The RSPCA advises people to dial 999 immediately as the police would be able to release the poorly pet. However, the RSPCA adds: “The law states that you have a lawful excuse to commit damage if you believe the owner of the property that you damage would consent to the damage if they knew the circumstances.” This is Section 5(2)(a) of the Criminal Damage Act 1971. Ultimately, it’s for you to judge how sympathetic the animal’s owner might be.
Myth: Dropping a raw egg into a radiator will fix a leak
Truth: The theory sounds convincing enough. You crack the egg, separate the yoke and pour the white into your leaking radiator. The pressure then pushes the egg white towards the leak while the heat slowly cooks it, enabling it to plug the leak. The reality is a bit different. Damon Jowett, head of rescue service delivery for breakdown operator Green Flag, said: “We would not advise anyone with a radiator leak to do this; we would encourage them to seek professional guidance. The moment the egg is inside the cooling system it could end up anywhere within the engine’s network of cooling galleries. Normal operating temperature for an engine is 75-105 degrees Celsius. Egg whites tend to cook at around 80 degrees Celsius, which could result in them becoming a solid mass potentially blocking the cooling system. The egg might stop the leak initially, but it’s more likely to increase your repair bill.”
Myth: You can use a hand-held mobile phone when a car is stationary
Truth: It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile if you’re in the car and stopped at traffic lights, queuing in traffic or supervising a learner driver. However, the law states: “You can use a hand-held phone if either of these apply: you’re safely parked; or you need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop.”
Myth: Filling up in the morning will mean you get more fuel for your money
Truth: When a liquid is cooler it is denser; as it heats up during the day it increases in volume. The theory is you get more fuel for your buck in the cool of morning. In reality, fuel at filling stations is stored in huge underground tanks. And that layer of concrete is sufficient to keep the fuel at a constant temperature, no matter the time of day. Commercial manager for the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), Gordon Balmer, adds: “All fuel is metered into the vehicle and there are no circumstances where you would get more fuel in the morning.”
Myth: Driving wearing headphones is illegal
Truth: Strangely it’s not illegal to drive wearing headphones. But if you’re listening to music and a police officer believes it’s distracting you, they could nick you for careless driving or driving without due care and attention. And if your headphones are linked to a phone and you handle the phone to change music tracks or answer calls, you could face charges of using a hand-held mobile phone at the wheel. Road safety charity IAM RoadSmart believes drivers should can the cans. Policy director Neil Greig explains: “Good drivers use all their senses to anticipate problems.”
Myth: Speed cameras are set at 10 per cent plus 2mph over the limit
Truth: Guidelines from the National Police Chief’s Council (NPCC) says drivers shouldn’t be prosecuted unless they’re exceeding the 10 per cent plus 2mph figure (35mph in 30 zone, 57mph in a 50 and 79mph in a 70). Following a Freedom Of Information request from Auto Express magazine in 2019, 22 of the 33 police forces that answered revealed their cameras were set to that tolerance. But the NPCC adds that individual officers can stop drivers exceeding the speed limit by any amount if they use their discretion.
Myth: There’s a two-week grace period after your MOT expires
Truth: There isn’t (recent MOT exemptions during the Covid-19 outbreak excluded). The only time you can drive without a valid MOT roadworthiness certificate is when you’re on the way to a pre-booked test.
Myth: It is illegal to have an interior light on
Truth: There is no law about having a light on inside a car. But if a police officer believes the light is distracting you, they can tell you to turn it off.
Myth: Having dirty number plates isn’t an offence
Truth: Yes it is. Not only must any vehicle’s registration plates have the correct font and spacing, they must also be clean. Drivers with registration plates that are so dirty they can’t be read can face fines of up to £1,000.
Myth: Parking tickets must be physically given to you or your car to be legal
Truth: You can be given a parking ticket (Penalty Charge Notice or PCN) without seeing the physical ticket. You may not even know about the fine until an envelope plops through the door.
Myth: You must not sound your horn overnight
Truth: It is illegal to use a horn in a built-up area (roads that have streetlights and a 30mph limit) between 11.30pm and 7am, unless you’re warning someone of imminent danger. And, of course, a horn should never be used to express annoyance!
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