The roads and the car that use them are completely different to what they looked like in the past 100 years. We now have technology to aid braking and steering; to warm us and cool us; and to help us with parking and awareness; examples include Brigade Electronics safety solutions. As vehicles have evolved, so have the laws around them, sometimes without us even knowing – here are six of the most obscure:
Ever used your horn to alert a friend that you’re outside their house while the car is stationary, or between the hours of 11.30pm and 7am in a built up area? If so, you’ve committed a crime – both are illegal. However, in reality, these fit into the list of laws that are real but barely ever enforced.
Whatever one may think about the British and European road laws, they certainly serve their purpose. The most recent figures from the World Health Organisation showed that there were 1.25m deaths worldwide from road accidents in 2013. Each country or region has provided results, of the number of deaths per 100,000 population, and it makes for interesting reading.
For example, the number of accidents in countries such as Togo (31.1) and Tanzania (32.9) are more than 10 times worse than the UK, at 2.9, which might give us pride that our roads are so well-regulated. More surprising, however, is that our roads see relatively far fewer deaths than Finland, Iceland, France, and Germany. Perhaps the high death rates across some parts of the world directly related to the fact that only 28 nations as of (2010) had laws to reflect all five major road risk factors (speed, drink–driving, helmets, seat-belts and child restraints).
Middle lane law
In 2013 a law was introduced to crack down on lane-hogging drivers on motorways, although it took two years for the first motorist to be prosecuted. The driver, behind the wheel of a Citroen Berlingo van, was fined £1,000 for his refusal to move from the middle lane of the M62. The licence of the driver, who did not show up, was also endorsed with five penalty points – sending out a strong message to drivers who might be tempted to travel in the same way.
If you had to guess when wearing seatbelts in the driver and passenger side became mandatory, you’d probably go for the 40s or 50s. Staggeringly, the actual answer is 1983. The fine is up to £500.
However, there are actually a few exceptions, when you don’t need to wear one. Gov.UK lists several, including when the car is reversing, as a passenger in a trade vehicle investigating a fault, and driving a goods vehicle between stops that are 50 metres or less apart. There may also be some medical exemptions, but pregnancy is not one of them.
We would hope that you didn’t drive under the influence of drugs, without the need of a piece warning you against it, but until recently it was legal – which may be a surprise to most people on the road.
However, new laws were only introduced in 2015, on March 2, setting legal limits for both illegal and prescription drugs. Roadside swab saliva tests have been used since that date for drugs as diverse as valium and cannabis, before taking anyone under suspicion to the police station to consent to a blood test.Various newspapers reported on the first year of the tests, with more than 430 arrested in West Mercia alone.
The laws on car seats have changed a few times over the years, but one might not know that children must use a child car seat until they’re 12 years old or 135cm – whichever comes first. A child under the age of 15 months must use a rear-facing seat, so make sure you purchase the correct model before fitting.