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Separating fact and fiction of what you can and can’t do driving a taxi

Man wearing glasses and smoking in a car.

We all know that using a mobile phone while driving a taxi is illegal, but what about eating a snack, wearing Ugg boots, or having fluffy dice hanging from the mirror? Will sipping tea or coffee, or driving at night with the interior light on earn a taxi driver points on their licence?

These are the sorts of questions many drivers feel they know – but aren’t sure whether they are the rule of the road or just driving myths they have come to believe. And getting it wrong could land taxi drivers in trouble with the police and in some cases, it might affect their taxi insurance.

Many of the driving myths we believe stem from our childhood and something a parent or family friend might have said about why it isn’t safe to drive wearing flip-flops or why it is illegal to eat while you are at the wheel.

So many of these myths are believed to be true that Google has recorded a 222% increase in the number of searches for “is it illegal to drive with interior lights on” in the UK in the past three months.

Some myths are so firmly believed that Taxi Point put them to the AA motoring organisation to separate fact from fantasy.

A spokesman said: “It’s something which lots of people think is a fact but there’s no law against driving with your interior lights on. But at night it can be distracting or interfere with your vision by reflecting off the inside of the windscreen.

“If you’re pulled over and it’s decided that your light was a probable cause in any bad driving, you can expect to get a careless driving charge though.”

And if there’s any doubt between fact and fiction, the AA recommends drivers should consult the bible of the road.

The spokesman added: “The most important thing to remember when you’re on roads in the UK is that you must obey the Highway Code.

“While driving rules are constantly updated, it is important motorists understand the current regulations in place. Not only will this reduce unexpected fines or penalties from failing to comply, but it will make UK roads a safer place.”

This is sound advice for taxi drivers and others who earn their living on the road. Picking up points on their licences for a misunderstanding could lead to drivers paying higher public hire insurance or private hire insurance, as well as causing them difficulties with their licensing authority.

The AA has looked at some of the most common driving myths in the UK to clear up any confusion.

1 Eating and driving

The AA says that while there is no specific law against eating while driving, police could take action if it stops you paying attention to the road ahead. If they think you aren’t in proper control, you can be charged with careless driving. This carries a maximum penalty of £5,000, 3 to 9 points on your licence and even a driving ban.

2 Soft drinks and coffee at the wheel

Just like with eating, there’s no law against drinking a soft drink while driving if you aren’t distracted by it.

3 Smoking and driving

While smoking is banned in all taxis and private hire vehicles, the AA reminds us it’s also illegal to smoke in any private vehicle with anyone under 18 present and in company vehicles or vans. As with eating and drinking, the Highway Code specifically lists smoking as a distraction that can land you with a careless driving charge.

4 Fines for footwear

When choosing which shoes you drive in, you need to be able to operate the pedals safely without your footwear – or lack of – making it difficult.

The AA reminds us that Rule 97 of the Highway Code makes it clear that drivers must have “footwear and clothing which does not prevent (them) using the controls in the correct manner”. So while it’s not illegal to drive in heels or sliders, it’s suggested you drive in more sensible shoes and change when you get to your destination.

5 Items dangling from the rear-view mirror will lead to an MoT fail

While the days of fluffy dice hanging from rear-view mirrors are thankfully long gone, any obstruction of more than 4 cm could lead to an MoT fail. The top 5 items spotted dangling in windscreens today are air fresheners, teddy bears, miniature footballs, beads and rosary beads and coats of arms (mainly football clubs).

By remembering which of these myths are fact and which are fiction can help taxi drivers avoid unwanted hassle and inconvenience that could affect their livelihoods. And, as the AA reminds us, the full rules of the road are regularly updated and available in the Highway Code.

All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.

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