driving tips - 10 Bad Driving Habits That Could Land You in Trouble

10 Bad Driving Habits That Could Land You in Trouble

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None of us are perfect drivers. A momentary distraction, or lack of consideration for other road users, is inevitable occasionally. However, drivers who habitually display poor driving behaviour are far more likely to get caught.

We look at 10 lazy, inconsiderate or downright dangerous driving habits with legal consequences you might not be aware of, including driving convictions with a hefty fine.

Motoring convictions for bad driving habits

Many of the bad habits in the list below will breach some aspect of the Highway Code. If the last time you even thought about the Highway Code was on the morning of your driving test, you might think this isn’t too serious.

Unfortunately, any breach of the Highway Code could be considered a Careless Driving offence. It doesn’t need to be one of the obvious breaches either, like breaking the speed limit or drink-driving. The habit you think of as something very minor can easily be a motoring offence with legal consequences if you’re convicted.

What does careless driving mean in UK law?

Careless driving can be briefly defined as:

“If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.”

Source: Legislation.co.uk

You’ll be convicted if you can’t give a good explanation for why your driving fell below the required standard.

Car mirror

Consequences of a Careless Driving conviction

There are nine conviction codes for Careless driving in total, but the three that are most commonly applied (for offences that don’t involve a fatality) are:

  • CD10 – Driving without due care and attention
  • CD20 – Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users
  • CD30 – Driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.

Depending on the seriousness of the offence, any of these convictions carry between three and nine penalty points and stay on your driving record for four years from the date of the offence.

A maximum fine of up to £5,000 can also be applied to careless driving convictions.

More serious careless driving convictions

The other six convictions codes, from CD40 to CD90, are applied to careless driving offences that result in a death, and the consequences are obviously more severe:

  • Between 3 and 11 penalty points
  • Codes CD40 to CD70 stay on your licence for 11 years from the date of conviction
  • Codes CD80 and CD90 stay on your licence for 4 years from the date of conviction
  • Potential disqualification from driving and mandatory extended re-test before you can drive again
  • Potentially unlimited fine
  • A possible prison sentence of up to 5 years.

What bad habits can be classed as careless driving?

So, here’s our top 10 bad habits that can result in a conviction for careless driving. Some of them might surprise you!

1.   Splashing pedestrians

Pedestrians are road users, too, and splashing them deliberately or carelessly is definitely inconsiderate behaviour! Drivers would normally face a £100 fixed penalty fine and three points on their licence, but the fine could increase to £5,000 if the case goes to court.

2.    Flashing headlights

The Highway Code states:

“Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.”

In reality, drivers flash their headlights for other reasons, too, but they could land you in trouble.

  • Flashing other drivers to warn them of speed traps ahead can be construed as obstructing a police officer in the execution of their duty
  • Flashing a driver to get them to move aside can be considered aggressive and intimidating.
  • Flashing a driver waiting at a junction to allow them to proceed. You may think you’re just being helpful. Unfortunately, if the other driver doesn’t check carefully for other road hazards, it can lead to an accident
  • Flashing pedestrians at zebra crossings for the same reason.

Snowy road with traffic warning sign

3.   Not clearing snow from your car

The Highway Code states:

“Before you set off:

  • you MUST be able to see, so clear all snow and ice from all your windows
  • you MUST ensure that lights are clean and number plates are clearly visible and legible
  • make sure the mirrors are clear and the windows are demisted thoroughly
  • remove all snow that might fall off into the path of other road users”

There’s obvious potential for causing an accident if you don’t take due care and attention to clear snow and ice from your car.

4.   Leaving your vehicle unattended while ice melts

On a cold morning, it’s tempting to let the car’s engine run for five minutes and nip back indoors while the de-mister clears the windscreen. Unfortunately, this is contrary to the Highway Code, which states:

“You MUST NOT leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.”

5.   Handling a sat nav or hand-held phone whilst driving

This isn’t just a bad habit – it’s illegal; the distraction caused by inappropriate use of sat navs and mobile phones can cause an accident.

The Highway Code states:

“It’s illegal to hold a phone or sat nav while driving or riding a motorcycle. You must have hands-free access.

 “You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted.”


6.   Smoking, eating or drinking while driving

It’s not illegal to smoke, eat or drink while you’re driving*. However, if it creates a distraction that causes you to drive badly, even if it doesn’t lead to an accident, you could be charged with careless driving, or not being in control of the vehicle.

The Highway Code includes all these activities, and others, as distractions to be avoided when driving. It states:

“Safe driving and riding needs concentration. Avoid distractions when driving or riding such as

  • loud music (this may mask other sounds)
  • trying to read maps
  • starting or adjusting any music or radio
  • arguing with your passengers or other road users
  • eating and drinking
  • smoking”

*It is illegal to smoke in an enclosed private vehicle if you have passengers under the age of 18.

7.   Beeping your horn for the wrong reasons

Drivers often beep their horn to express anger or irritation at another driver. Sometimes beeping the horn is an intimidating tactic for a driver to get their own way on the road; however, using the horn this way can be construed as aggressive and inconsiderate.

The Highway Code states:

“Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn

  • while stationary on the road
  • when driving in a built-up area between the hours of 11.30 pm and 7.00 am except when another road user poses a danger.”

8.   Tailgating

Tailgating is a particularly dangerous habit that can make it impossible to avoid a collision in an emergency. Offenders may simply be under-estimating their speed and safe stopping distance, but it’s often used as an intimidating tactic to move other drivers out of the way.

In addition, tailgating can cause a distraction to the driver in front, which itself could trigger an accident.

The Highway Codes states:

“Leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops. The safe rule is never to get closer than the overall stopping distance.

“Allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads”

9.   Failing to indicate

Vehicle indicators let other road users know your intentions. Drivers that keep you guessing are at best, irritating, and in some situations, downright dangerous.

There’s no specific offence for not using your indicators. However, as with many other bad habits on this list, it can lead to a charge of “driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users”.

The Highway Codes states:

  • “give clear signals in plenty of time, having checked it is not misleading to signal at that time
  • use them to advise other road users before changing course or direction, stopping or moving off
  • cancel them after use
  • make sure your signals will not confuse others.”

Cars in middle lane of motorway

Image credit: cc-by-sa/2.0 – © Bill Boaden – geograph.org.uk/p/1693713

10. Hogging the middle or outside lanes

This is another thoughtless driving habit that might seem annoying, but fairly insignificant on the face of it. However, there are good reasons why middle- or outside lane hogs could be in breach of the Highway Code.

  1. Ultimately it causes more congestion on Britain’s already busy motorways, giving drivers one less lane to use to overtake slower drivers in the middle lane.
  2. It can lead to accidents as other drivers rush to overtake them in the lane to the right, or use another dangerous practice of undertaking on the left.

The Highway Code states:

“You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow-moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.”

The impact of a careless driving conviction on car insurance

Because it raises your risk profile, a conviction for careless driving can make it much harder to find cheaper car insurance. Until the conviction is “spent”, you will have to declare it to any current or new insurer, so using an insurance broker like Complete Cover Group, who specialise in insurance for drivers with motoring convictions, could help save you money on your renewal.


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