In the UK, ignorantia legis neminem excusat. That is, ‘ignorance of the law excuses no one’. Simply claiming you were unaware that vandalism is illegal will not save you persecution if you are caught in the act. The same applies to laws regarding the road.
In Japan, it is illegal to splash pedestrians walking past a puddle, while Belarusians can face punishment for driving a dirty car. In Germany, stopping on the Autobahn for any reason is strictly prohibited (including if you’re out of petrol!), while in Beijing, cars are prevented from stopping for pedestrians. South America legislation gives animals equal right of way as people, and in Thailand, it is illegal to drive without a shirt on.
Moving a little closer to home, we’ve compiled a list of surprising laws that many of us will likely be unaware of.
- On using the horn
It is illegal to beep your horn while stationary, in between the hours of 11pm and 7am, or for any other reason other than being in immediate danger. The sudden loud noise can startle and distract other drivers, causing a dangerous driving environment.
- On breaking down
If you’re unlucky enough to face car troubles on the side of the motorway, be aware the you are legally obligated to keep any animals inside the vehicle. Not only is this safest option for other road users, it’s also the safest option for the animal itself.
- On tailgating and middle-lane ‘hogging’
Not simply pet peeves, but punishable offences. Road Safety minister Stephen Hammond introduced penalties on careless drivers in 2013, with offenders risking on-the-spot fines and 3 points on the licence.
- On littering
Drivers are liable to face an £80 fine if they, or any of their passengers, are caught throwing litter from their cars. Refusal to pay the fine can result in a trial in a magistrates’ court, with the maximum fine at £2,500. Keep any drinks, apple cores or cigarette ends to one side until you stop in a place with bins provided.
- On clearing ice
On the relatively rare occasions we’ve received a thick blanket of snow in the UK, many of us have been itching to get to the steepest hill for an afternoon of sledging. Before setting off, make sure that the entirety of your windscreen and the roof of the car are cleared of any snow or ice. While driving, loose snow can fall and block your vision, and not removing the potential hazard is against the law.
While it is unlikely to face prison if caught breaking any of these laws, it is entirely possible to face a fine or points to your licence, if not both. While some of these rules may seem arbitrary or trivial, it’s important to understand the reasoning that grounds them. By checking yourself in within the guidelines, drivers are made safer on the road.