Navigation GPS System in electric vehicle car with woman's hand on wheel

  • Almost one in five (19%) Brits admit to using their phone behind the wheel1
  • Nearly one in seven (15%) admit to smoking or vaping while driving
  • One in six (16%) have worn flip flops or sliders and one in 10 (10%) have driven barefoot
  • 8% let their pet stick its head out of the car
  • Mistakes – however innocent – could lead to people facing a fine

With summer holidays around the corner, new research by Aviva reveals the dangerous mistakes some motorists are making when behind the wheel.

The research, which surveyed 2,003 Britons, reveals that many motorists could be failing to use both hands when driving, with one in five (19%) using their phone while at a standstill. This is despite restrictions around mobile phone usage while driving first being introduced in 2003.

The research also shows that three quarters of drivers (78%) admit to having either eaten something or had a drink (non-alcoholic) while driving. Similarly, one in seven (15%) admit to smoking or vaping behind the wheel.

10 driving habits that could affect summer driving are revealed as:

  1. Worn sunglasses (49%)
  2. Eaten something (44%)
  3. Had a drink – non-alcoholic (34%)
  4. Beeped my horn out of anger (32%)
  5. Worn a hat (24%)
  6. Used my phone at a standstill (19%)
  7. Worn flip flops or sliders (16%)
  8. Driven when smoking or vaping (15%)
  9. Driven barefoot (10%)
  10. Taken medication just before and not checked whether it has any side effects eg anti-histamine (8%) and let my pet stick its head out of the car (8%)

It seems that driving attire could also be cause for concern, with one in eight (16%) wearing flip flops or sliders and one in 10 (10%) driving barefoot.

Other driving habits include letting a pet stick its head out of the car (8%), deliberately speeding because they were hot and wanted to get somewhere quicker (7%) and using a handheld or battery fan when driving (4%).

The Aviva research also suggests driving errors may be due to people’s lack of knowledge around the rules of the road. For example, over a third of people surveyed (36%) didn’t know that it is illegal to use a handheld mobile phone while driving a motor vehicle2 – even when stationary. Similarly, two-thirds of people (69%) do not think smoking or vaping while driving goes against the Highway Code, but the action may contravene the rules if someone is distracted by smoking or vaping while at the wheel.

This means that motorists could be accidentally making themselves vulnerable to heavy fines, points on their licence and in worst case scenarios, prosecution.

As many people get ready to start their summer holidays, our research shows that a large portion of drivers are taking dangerous risks while behind the wheel of a car.

Martin Smith, Motor Claims Manager at Aviva, commented: “With many about to start their summer holidays, our research shows that a large portion of drivers are taking dangerous risks while behind the wheel of a car. Not only does this increase the chance of a collision, it means that you could receive a fine and/or points on your licence which may affect how much you pay for car insurance in the future.

“No matter how tempting, it’s important that drivers remove any potential distractions in their car and make sure they are appropriately dressed for driving – which includes footwear too. Changing a few of your driving habits only takes a few minutes and can prevent an incident from occurring.”

-Ends-

References:

1. The research was conducted by Censuswide with 2,003 national rep general consumers (18+) between 06.03.24 – 12.03.24. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct and ESOMAR principles. Censuswide is also a member of the British Polling Council.

*Dangerous mistakes made while driving: Worn sunglasses, Eaten something, Had a drink (non-alcoholic), Beeped my horn out of anger, Worn a hat, Used my phone at a standstill eg while held up in traffic or at a traffic light, Worn flip flops or sliders, Driven when smoking or vaping, Driven barefoot, Taken medication just before and not checked whether it has any side effects eg anti-histamine, Let my pet stick its head out of the car, Deliberately speeded because I was hot and wanted to get somewhere quicker, Used a handheld or battery fan.

2. The dangerous driving habits and whether this goes against the Highway Code:

Driving habit

Does this go against the Highway Code?

Worn sunglasses

It depends – Glare on the roads – particularly during periods of wet weather – can be a risk when driving and can lead to driving accidents. Wearing sunglasses can help prevent this, however not all are appropriate for driving and should not be worn at night or when there is poor visibility. In the event of a collision where using unsuitable eyewear is considered to be a contributing factor, you could be prosecuted and may be unable to make a claim on your insurance as a result.

Eaten something/ Had a drink (non-alcoholic)

It depends – although there is no rule against eating or drinking (non-alcohol) while driving, if you were to have an accident you could be prosecuted for careless driving if you were proven to not be in proper control of the vehicle. Rule 160 of the Highway Code states that drivers must drive with both hands on the wheel wherever possible.

Beeped my horn out of anger

Yes – according to the Highway Code, ‘a horn should only be used when warning someone of any danger due to another vehicle or any other kind of danger, and not to indicate your annoyance’, so beeping out of anger would be deemed a breach of the Highway Code.

Worn a hat

It depends – it’s not illegal to wear a hat while driving but it can go against the Highway Code if it prevents you from ‘using the controls in the correct manner’ (Rule 97). If found to impair vision, drivers could face a fine of up to £1,000, as well as points on their licence.

Used a handheld phone at a standstill

Yes – it is illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any handheld device that can send or receive data, while driving or riding a motorcycle. Doing so could lead to a fine, points on their licence or in worst case scenario, a driving ban.

Worn flip flops or sliders/ driven barefoot

It depends – it’s not illegal to wear flip flops or sliders – or drive barefoot – but it could be seen to go against the Highway Code if they prevented the driver from ‘using the controls in the correct manner’ (Rule 97). Drivers could face a £100 fine and points on their licence, which in worst case scenarios can increase to a £5,000 fine or driving ban.

Driven when smoking or vaping

It depends – if you were found to be distracted as a result of smoking or vaping which later caused an accident, you could be prosecuted for careless driving due to not being in proper control of the vehicle. This could result in a fine of up to £2,500. Rule 160 of the Highway Code also states that drivers must drive with both hands on the wheel wherever possible.

Taken medication just before and not checked whether it has any side effects eg anti-histamine

It depends – According to the law, it is ‘illegal in England, Scotland and Wales to drive with legal drugs in your body if it impairs your driving’, which is why drivers will need to check medication for any side effects before driving. Penalties for driving while under the influence of drugs are severe and could even result in a criminal record.

Let my pet stick its head out of the car

Yes – under Rule 57, drivers must make sure that dogs or other animals are suitably restrained so they cannot distract or injure themselves while driving and in the event of a sudden stop. According to the rules ‘seat belt harness, pet carrier, dog cage or dog guard are ways of retraining animals in cars’.

Deliberately sped because I was hot and wanted to get somewhere quicker

Yes – the minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and three penalty points added to your licence. Only police, fire and ambulance services are allowed to exceed speed limits if they’re responding to an emergency.

Used a handheld or battery fan

Yes – Rule 160 of the Highway Code states that drivers must drive with both hands on the wheel wherever possible. Failing to do so could result in a fine, points on their licence or even a driving ban.

Inquiries: