Is it illegal to drive in flip flops? Can you drive barefoot in the UK - and summer driving myths busted

Clearing up confusion on the laws around footwear, when you can use your mobile phone and whether refuelling in hot weather is worse value

There’s no doubt that summer has finally arrived and scorching weather along with school holidays mean millions of us will be taking to the roads to make the most of it.

Whether it’s UK-based roadtrips, days at the beach or holidays to the continent, the open road offers endless opportunities for fun but it’s vital to stay on the right side of the law.

Most of the dos and don’ts of driving are laid out in the Highway Code but every driver has also heard the “wisdom” of friends and family members about other rules of the road - on everything from illegal footwear to speed camera thresholds.

Most of this advice is well intentioned but a lot of it is also wildly inaccurate so here we’ve cleared up some of the most common summer driving myths.

Common driving myths debunkedCommon driving myths debunked
Common driving myths debunked

It’s illegal to drive in flip flops or barefoot

As soon as the sun comes out, so does this old chestnut but it simply isn’t true. There is no legislation that sets out what footwear is or isn’t legal for driving.

However, the law does say you must be able to operate your car’s controls properly and if your footwear - whether it’s flip flops, sandals, high heels or welly boots - affects this you can still get into trouble.

The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency also advises against driving barefoot in summer, saying: “We would not recommend driving barefoot because you don’t have the same braking force with bare feet as you do with shoes on.”

You get less fuel for your money when it’s hot

This claim stems from the idea that liquids are cooler at lower temperatures so in hot weather fuel is less dense, meaning you’ll get less from a fill-up. With petrol prices at near-record levels, such a potential loss could hit drivers in the pocket but the truth is it’s another myth. The fuel in filling stations is stored deep underground where it remains at a constant temperature, no matter the air temperature on the forecourt.

It’s illegal to eat or drink while driving

We’ve all heard stories of drivers being pulled over by police and charged for eating or drinking at the wheel but, in fact, there’s no law against it and in hot weather it’s essential you drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and alert. However, if police think that you are not in proper control of your vehicle or you’re distracted because you’re eating or drinking they can charge you with careless driving. A 2012 study by the University of Leeds also suggested that the reaction times of motorists who were eating were up to 44 per cent slower than usual.

It’s not illegal to drink water while driving but you do need to remain in control and focused on driving It’s not illegal to drink water while driving but you do need to remain in control and focused on driving
It’s not illegal to drink water while driving but you do need to remain in control and focused on driving

All speed cameras flash if you’ve been caught

Not so. There are many different types of speed cameras and while some do flash when they function that’s not true of all of them, so the first you might know is when the dreaded Notice of Intended Prosecution drops through your letterbox.

You won’t be fined for doing less than 10% over the speed limit

Another common speeding myth, although one that has some basis in fact. The speed limit is just that - a limit - and if you exceed it you can be charged. However, guidance issued to police officers suggests they employ a discretionary buffer of 10 per cent plus 2mph. The National Police Chiefs’ Council says this is to ensure enforcement is proportionate but officers can still charge you for doing 1mph if they choose.

Changing lanes will fool average speed cameras

Another speeding-related tale that has a grain of truth behind it. When they were first introduced, it was possible to confused average speed cameras by changing lanes. However, the technology has been upgraded since then and the latest systems can monitor your speed whatever your road position.

It is illegal to have an interior light on when driving

This particular piece of accepted wisdom is as almost as old as the motorcar but it’s simply untrue. If police think that having the light on is affecting your driving or could distract other motorists they can ask you to switch it off but there’s no law to say you can’t have it on.

You can’t use your phone as a sat nav

Despite a recent change to the law, there is still some confusion around using a mobile phone while driving. With a £200 fine and six penalty points if you break the law, you want to be sure you’re following the rules. You can use a phone’s mapping app for navigation but there are certain conditions. It must be properly, securely mounted in a position that doesn’t obstruct your vision and you’re not allowed to operate the touchscreen when driving. So mount the device properly and make sure your route is plotted before setting off.

Fully comprehensive insurance lets you drive any car

This is another common belief which can lead to unwitting drivers falling foul of the law. Fully comp insurance used to, as a rule, provide third-party cover for driving another vehicle. In many cases it still does but some insurers have removed the “driving another car” allowance from their policies, meaning you should always check before borrowing someone else’s wheels. Driving without insurance is a serious business and can see you fined £300 and handed three penalty points.

Fully comp insurance doesn’t automatically cover you to drive other people’s carsFully comp insurance doesn’t automatically cover you to drive other people’s cars
Fully comp insurance doesn’t automatically cover you to drive other people’s cars

You can’t have open alcohol in the car

It sounds obvious that you shouldn’t have booze around while driving but, bizarrely, there’s no law that says you can’t have open alcohol in your car, or stopping a passenger from drinking while you drive. The law only relates to the amount of alcohol in the driver’s blood and you’ll only be prosecuted if you are over the limit.

The only exception is that you can be prosecuted for drinking alcohol in a car while supervising a learner driver.

It’s illegal to use headphones

It seems silly to have anything that restricts your hearing but there’s no specific law against wearing headphones while driving. That doesn’t mean it’s sensible and Rule 148 of the Highway Code states that drivers should avoid distractions such as loud music that could mask other sounds. If police think you were distracted or not in full control of your vehicle because you were wearing headphones they could charge you.