/ Driving Advice

Five Ways To Avoid Getting A Dumb Penalty When Driving

New research shows drivers who speed, don't wear seatbelts and use their mobile phone while driving can bring themselves to the attention of the police. There are a host of other infringements, some better known than others, which can result in drivers picking up fines they may not have been expecting.

Here are five situations – generally less obvious – where getting it wrong generally leads to a penalty of some sort:

Driving too close past a cyclist:
The recommended distance for passing a cyclist is 1.5 metres. If you are seen overtaking too close to a cyclist, you face prosecution, with a £100 fixed penalty ticket and three points on your licence.

Parking by a pedestrian crossing
No one is allowed to park on the zig-zag lines found at pedestrian crossings (unless it’s an emergency situation or the reason you stopped was beyond your control). If you do, you risk a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence.

Attaching a non-compliant number plate
Number-plates should show your vehicle registration number correctly, according to the DVLA. They must be made from a reflective material, and be black on white for the front and black on yellow for the rear. Strict rules apply concerning fonts, styles and letter sizes. Non-compliance in the first instance will lead to a £100 non-endorsable ticket. DVLA has the power to cancel your right to use a cherished plate, so if you have paid a king’s ransom for it, then it makes sense to ensure you display it correctly.

Driving with a defective tyre
Make regular checks of your tyre pressures and tread depths. The minimum legal tread depth is 1.6mm across the all-round central three-quarters of the tyre. If one of your tyres is below this, you face a £100 fine with three points on your licence. If more than one tyre is faulty, you will face a court hearing where you can receive a fine of up to £2,500 and three points per tyre. The 20p test is a simple way to check tyre tread. Pop a 20p coin into a tread groove. If you can see the outer band of the coin, then you must replace the tyre. An underinflated tyre can also lead to points and a fine.

Satnavs, dashcams and other items that may obstruct your view
Windscreen obstruction is measured by zones. Zone A refers to the area directly in front of you when you’re driving, and this area must not contain any obstruction measuring over 10mm in diameter. Zone B refers to the rest of the windscreen, where stickers and other obstructions) must not measure more than 40mm.

The Highway Code states that "windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision". So if you use a satnav, then it makes sense to buy a holder you can insert into an air vent, rather than risk mounting it on the windscreen. We recommend that you should mount a dashcam between the rear-view mirror and windscreen, as this ensures it is entirely out of your view when driving, and will not mean you risk a penalty.

If you do not have a ‘full view’ of the road and traffic ahead, you can be fined £200 with six points on your licence.