You’ve passed your test and are ready to (figuratively) tear up the roads in your mum and dad’s Fiesta. You’re going to push the boundaries of your independence, go where no teenager has gone before. But how far is that, within the bounds of the law?
Below, we attempt to answer some of the most pressing questions that face new drivers – the ones that weren’t necessarily covered in your theory test. Our list is by no means comprehensive so our overwhelming advice is: if you suspect it’s illegal, don’t do it. Ignorance is no defence against a hefty fine or a driving ban – if you ignore your instincts you might find you’re using your bare feet to kick yourself all the way to the bus stop.
Can you drive with bare feet?
There’s no law against it. Some might argue that your naked soles don’t have enough grip to be effective on pedals, and their slipping might make you leaden-footed; others argue it’s possible for your toes to get stuck.
However, if the choice is between driving in your new stilettos and going foot-commando, driving with bare feet may be the safer option. Likewise, sandals and flip-flops are arguably more dangerous than bare feet because it’s possible for the pedals to get caught between their sole and your foot.
If you’re wearing inappropriate footwear, or none at all, a particularly strict policeman might fine you for driving recklessly. Why not keep a pair of cheap plimsolls in the car, just in case?
Is it illegal to hang stuff off your rear-view mirror?
By law, it’s illegal to have anything that might obstruct your vision or distract you while you’re driving, and on balance, it’s not logical to tie something dangly at eye-level when you’re trying to concentrate. This doesn’t stop people with smelly cars hanging air fresheners up or people with strong religious beliefs tying symbols of their faith where they can see them.
Chances are you won’t be stopped for having your bog standard rosary or cardboard evergreen tree if it’s tied at a sensible length. If you are, the police officer will probably let you off if you take it down. Still, it’s best to err on the side of caution: if you were to get in an accident, even if it was nothing to do with your trinket, it could be cited as a sign that you are an irresponsible driver.
Can I use my mobile?
No, if you’re under 18: not in any way shape or form. If you’re over 18 you can use a hands-free device, like a headset or speakerphone, but texting or holding your phone to your head to talk is completely out of the question. Even if you’re within the law, it’s best not to make a habit of taking calls while you’re driving. Listening to the little voice in your ear rather than the traffic around you might mean you don’t notice a potential hazard.
Can my dog put its head out of the window?
There’s no real law against it but it’s extremely unadvisable. Dog’s eyes and noses are very sensitive and at risk of damage if they’re struck by grit or dust. And in the worst case scenario Rover might end up being beheaded by a Stop sign.
If your dog is calm in the car, think about using a doggie seatbelt to restrain them – open the window and they’ll still be able to smell the exciting outdoor smells and see what’s going on without being at risk. Don’t feel too bad about putting your pet in a cage in your boot– the enclosed space can help keep them calm as you whizz along. There’s the treat of a walk at the end, too.