Drivers confused about what is legalBut most know using a phone at the wheel is banned

04 July 2007

 

Hands on car steering wheel

Motorists are mystified over what constitutes legal and illegal behaviour behind the wheel.

Car owners' confusion includes not being sure about whether they can light a cigarette, apply lipstick or change a CD while at the wheel, a survey from insurance broker Swinton found.

More than three in four thought it was perfectly legal to change a CD, but two-thirds reckoned it was illegal to apply lipstick.

Also, the 2,408 motorists polled were split almost 50-50 over whether it was legal to eat a sandwich while driving.

Reading a map

In fact, all these and other activities such as reading a map on your lap could be considered illegal if the driver is deemed not to be in full control of the vehicle.

Almost all (94 per cent) of motorists correctly said it was illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while at the controls, while 86 per cent reckoned that sending a text message was unlawful.

One per cent considered singing along to music was illegal, while 8 per cent thought they would fall foul of the law by carrying a crate of beer on the back seat.

Other things drivers reckoned were unlawful included:

  • Holding a partner's hand (25 per cent);
  • Making a V sign at a bad driver (29 per cent);
  • Resting arms on the steering wheel (26 per cent);
  • Twiddling the knobs on the car stereo control (15 per cent).

Road safety laws

Chris Collings, of Swinton, said: 'Our survey reveals the extent of confusion surrounding what people can and can't do at the wheel. Drivers need to completely understand the principal road safety laws if they are to adhere to them.

'Not knowing whether an act is legal or illegal is an extremely dangerous position for drivers to be in.'

He went on: 'Nearly all drivers questioned know that it's illegal to use a mobile phone when driving, which is good news, but we need to gain this level of certainty for all the other actions undertaken.

'Whether a person is in full control of a vehicle or not remains at the discretion of a police officer and is therefore ambiguous.

'We are calling for a tighter definition of the law so any confusion is removed and drivers aren't unwittingly acting illegally.'

The Press Association, All Rights Reserved.