10 Secrets of the Highway Code

Put the word 'code' on the end of most other words - pretty much any other words - and you've got yourself a potential book or film title. Da Vinci Code, The Omega Code, Source Code... somehow it all sounds jolly thrilling.

Put 'code' after the word 'highway', though, and you get a different sort of feeling. Here, 'code' has the rather more boring implication of a set of rules you're supposed to follow, rather than some exciting cipher waiting to be cracked. Having said that, there are some bits of the Highway Code that are the next best thing to secrets. So without further ado, here's our clickbaity-looking list of the top ten Highway Code secrets you might not know about. Look for the answers underneath, and let us know how you get on in the comments section below!

1) We've all seen those smart-alecs who deliberately drive around in near-darkness because "they know the law, they do" and they don't want to waste their lightbulbs or something. When are you actually legally required to have your car's lights on? And which ones go on when?

2) We all love a well-pressed car horn, and most of us know that you're not allowed to sound it in a built-up area between the hours of 11.30pm and 7am, but there is another (surprisingly common) scenario when you mustn't give someone the horn. When is that?

3) Other than for holders of medical exemption certificates, is there any driving scenario in which you're not legally obliged to wear a seatbelt?

4) Your mate's 911 has broken down (ha!) and he's conned you into rescuing him with that trailer you stupidly bought. Which way around should you load his infernal machine?

5) You've visited some mates in Berwick-upon-Tweed and had a couple of sharpeners. Your glovebox alcohol tester is showing 60 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood, which is comfortably under the 80mg/100ml limit for driving. That presumably means you are OK to drive the five miles home to your gaff in Clappers, Scotland - er, doesn't it?

6) Some of the folk you see on the road these days look like they can't see their own noses, let alone the traffic around them, grumble mutter etc. Do the police have the power to make drivers take an eyesight test?

7) As we know, it is now illegal to smoke in private vehicles carrying someone under 18 years of age. Does that apply to convertibles, though? And what if your car has a sunroof that's open? Is it OK to smerk tabs in that, irrespective of who else is coughing their lungs up next to you?

8) The powered mobility scooter, or coffin dodgem as it is sometimes known, is available in two varieties: the Class 2, which is supposed to stick to the pavements where it is limited to 4mph (2:39), and the Class 3, which is road-legal and can reach the giddy speed of 8mph (3:41). When Class 3 scooters are used on pavements, they're supposed to be switched to the Class 2 maximum of 4mph, very much like an F1 pit lane restrictor (3:44). But can a flubber cart - even an 8mph sports model - ever be used on a dual carriageway?

9) Cycling on the pavement: that's OK isn't it? Especially if you faithfully promise never to wear Lycra?

10) What about using my mobile while cycling home from the pub?

1) All sidelights and rear reg plate lights must be lit between sunset and sunrise. Headlights must be switched on at night unless you're on roads with lit street lighting, which are generally signified by their 30mph speed limits. 'Night' (or 'the hours of darkness') in this context is defined as the period between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise.

2) The Highway Code says you MUST NOT (their caps) use your horn while stationary on the road, except when another road user poses a danger (3:112). Bipping someone for failing to move away from a green light, for example, might not be regarded as acceptable under the terms of the appropriate law (Law CUR reg 99)

3) You don't have to wear a seatbelt if you're making deliveries or collections in goods vehicles when travelling less than 50 metres (6:99).(Laws RTA 1988 sects 14 & 15, MV(WSB)R, MV(WSBCFS)R & MV(WSB)(A)R)

4) Winch (or peevishly push) your mate's 911 on back to front, so that its front end is pointing back down the road. Because as the Code says (5:98) you should "properly distribute the weight in your caravan or trailer with heavy items mainly over the axle(s) and ensure a downward load on the tow ball". Towing a vehicle on a tow rope is chided by the Code as "potentially dangerous".

5) You are not ok to drive home to Clappers because the legal limit in Scotland is 50 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood. The best way to be absolutely sure of course is by never drinking alcohol before (and especially while) driving.

6) Yes, the police can require a driver to take an eyesight test (Laws RTA 1988 sect 96 & MV(DL)R reg 40 & sch 8)

7) An 'enclosed vehicle' is regarded as any private vehicle that is enclosed wholly or partly by a roof. So you can smoke in a convertible car as long as the roof is completely down and stowed (the definition of 'stowed' could be an interesting one), but a vehicle with a sunroof open is still deemed to be 'enclosed' and is therefore not alright to smoke in. Even if you're sitting smoking quietly in the open doorway of an enclosed vehicle, wondering what it's all about, you can be nicked. Smoking in a motorhome, campervan or caravan that's being used as a vehicle is not allowed, but you can happily puff yourself to death once it's being used as living accommodation.

8) Yes: somewhat incredibly, a powered mobility scooter can be driven along a dual carriageway as long as (a) it's a 50mph maximum road and (b) your motorised cake trolley has a flashing amber beacon (3:46).

9) Cycling on the pavement is not ok, in fact you can be fined up to £500 for it. And as for wearing Lycra on or off the pavement, this is not yet compulsory, but the Highway Code says that your clothing should be, "tight fitted to prevent it getting tangled in the chain or wheel of your bicycle".

10) Although there is nothing in the Highway Code specifically prohibiting the use of a mobile phone while riding, you "should" keep both hands on the handlebars except when signalling or changing gear. So as long as you are always doing one of those two things, it might be ok, but we didn't tell you that. Realistically, you'd have to shout quite a bit to make yourself heard while signalling right or left, and you'd do well to hear the reply. As for riding while bladdered, section 68 says that "cyclists must not ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs". And "drugs" in this context includes "some medications", so your carefully-worded Tiger Woods defence probably won't work...

P.H. O'meter

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Comments (84) Join the discussion on the forum

  • BryanR 06 Dec 2017

    Re item 3, I do believe that taxi drivers are exempt if plying for trade or carrying passengers.

  • RacerMike 06 Dec 2017

    article said:
    4) Your mate's 911 has broken down (ha!) and he's conned you into rescuing him with that trailer you stupidly bought. Which way around should you load his infernal machine?
    A far more pertinent question would be

    4) Your mate's 911 has broken down (ha!) and he's conned you into rescuing him with that trailer you stupidly bought. You passed your driving test after 1997. Can you tow it?

    Most relative youngsters like myself (a spritely 33 years of age I'll have you know) who are petrolheads in some way have probably encountered this issue before. When I had my Caterham, it took me a solid few hours to decipher the Highway Code's rules on towing. Basically, it's nearly impossible to understand without at least an A Level in Maths.

    The truth of the regs are. If you passed after 1997:

    • You cannot tow any trailer that has a maximum mass (weight of the trailer plus load) that's higher than that of the car you're towing with
    • The combined weight of the car and trailer at maximum mass cannot be more than 3.5 tonnes (so the heaviest car you can tow with is 1.75 tonnes which prohibits most 4x4s)
    • Even if you only carry a 1kg bag of sugar on the trailer, you'll still be breaking the law if the trailer is plated to allow a maximum mass greater than the to car's mass.
    So in answer to the modified question:

    Yes, providing that the weight of the 911 and the trailer is less than the weight of your car. And your trailer has been classified by it's original manufacturer to have a maximum allowed mass no greater than the weight of your tow car!

    Alternatively, you can just give up and go and do a trailer test and be done with it all......

  • Fetchez la vache 06 Dec 2017

    Couple of things in reverse order..

    article said:
    3) ... is there any driving scenario in which you're not legally obliged to wear a seatbelt?
    I thought you could take the belt off while reversing? Not that I do, but many do and remember my instructor 150 years ago saying I could...

    article said:
    1) All sidelights and rear reg plate lights must be lit between sunset and sunrise.
    Sidelights are a minor bugbear of mine. Why is it acceptable for people to use them at all when driving unless they are stationary? Half the time they might as well not bother turning any on at all..

  • Ray_Aber 06 Dec 2017

    What's wrong with sidelights?

    Genuinely curious.

  • Bladedancer 06 Dec 2017

    Sidelights are really for when the car is parked, not while its moving. Which is why on the continent in many countries they are called "parking lights".
    Seriously, is it so hard to just turn the low beam on? What's the problem with it? Having to buy a 10 quid bulb once in a few years? Extra 0.003 MPG you'll use powering the lights?
    I am amazed at how many people in this country seem to think it's ok to drive with just tiny little candles on in the night.
    Maybe you can see out but you yourself are barely visible to others on the road.
    And there we have the fog light idiots who think their foglights are the proper light to be used in the dark or that they are in fact daytime running lights, despite their car predating that invention by a decade or so.
    Let me explain - you don't look cool with your fogs on. You look like a tw*t who likes to be antisocial and blind other road users.
    And the best of the bunch who drive with no light at all cause hell, they can see out just fine!

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