How not to get caught out when driving abroad (and in the UK)

We all think we're pretty au fait with the rules of the road but how many of these weird and wonderful laws were you aware of?

Let's be honest, the Highway Code is a fairly sizeable tome and very few of us have probably read and digested all 307 rules of the road. That said, with 76% of road users deeming themselves to be 'above average' drivers, it's a pretty safe bet that we all know enough about the UK's driving laws to get about on the roads perfectly safely.

It goes without saying that driving laws exist for very good reason and, for the most part, need no questioning. However, since the first car hit the road in 1886, driving has changed exponentially and it's natural that some rules no longer quite fit their original purpose. 

A quick dip into the depths of a well-known search engine throws up a wealth of interesting, little known and downright silly driving laws that are still punishable to this day. 

So of course, we thought we'd share them with you - you know, just in case you were thinking of stuffing your boot with an excess of spuds or doing the school run in your dressing gown.

Read on and arm yourself with possibly the most useless knowledge you never knew you needed...



Person buying food at a drive through

1. Paying for fast food with your mobile

Ok, that's not strictly true - so we should clarify by saying 'paying for fast food with your mobile at a drive-thru'. Still sounds odd though doesn't it?

Let's break it down. 

As you know, a drive-thru is, by its very nature defined by its efficiency. Cars approach a series of windows, order food, pay for food, receive food. Quick, convenient, and enjoyed by many. 

But take a moment to think about the last time you frequented your favourite fast-food restaurant drive-thru...did you switch off your engine at every window stop? Probably not unless you were feeling like inciting the wrath of the customers behind you. 

Did you pay for your goods with a quick tap of your smartphone? Highly likely.

And there's the sailing (metaphorically) through the process with your engine running and whipping out your phone to pay you are technically using a mobile phone whilst in charge of a moving vehicle. Whilst the situation is obviously different, in literal terms, the law views this offence as no different to using your phone whilst in traffic. Which, in case you didn't know, can land you with a £200 fine and 6 penalty points.

That's a pretty costly burger.

Open car window

2. Leaving your car window open,

We kid you not. In 2012 a woman from Nanaimo, British Columbia was issued a fine from a passing Mountie. 

Her crime? Leaving the windows of her car open whilst she went to work.

Bizarre as that may sound, it's not unique to Canada either. In the Australian states of New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, police have the power to issue varying fines of up to AU$117 to drivers who have left the windows open more than 5cm on a parked vehicle. In NSW, it's a little more specific, in that you are permitted to leave your car unattended if the opening is a maximum of 2cm. 

Any wider than that and you'll need to be within a 3m distance of your vehicle to avoid a hefty fine.

The thinking behind it is a little unclear but it would seem that the fines are in place to save on policing costs further down the line. Logically, it takes much less government time and funding to issue a fine to a driver who is careless enough to leave their window open than it is to investigate and convict any potential theft charges that may arise. 

That and preventing any unwanted accidents caused by a funnel-web spider surprising you mid-drive, having made its way in through your open window, presumably.

Headlights on dipped beams

3. Turning your headlights off

Obviously, this is a pretty risky move in any country if executed in low visibility or at night - we absolutely wouldn't condone trying it. 

Flippant observations aside, this law comes specifically from the Danish. 

In Demark, years of commissioned studies have proven that the number of road traffic accidents is significantly reduced when drivers leave their dipped headlights on at all times of the day. So much so that it is actually illegal to turn your lights off during daylight hours, regardless of the weather and doing so could land you with a fine of around 1000 krone. 

Old fashioned car horn

4. Honking your horn

One from our very own bank of homegrown driving laws - this one applies in certain circumstances across the UK. 

The horn was first introduced into cars by Miller Reese Hutchison in 1908 and it quickly became synonymous with the Model T Ford, to which it was frequently attached. The infamous 'Ahooga' sound became widely recognised across cities worldwide and the horn has since become standard issue on vehicles.

However, using it inappropriately can get you into a spot of bother. The Highway Code states that horns must not be used in built-up areas between the hours of 11 pm and 7 am, and they should only be used to warn other motorists of your presence. 

Failure to follow these rules can land you with a £30 fine, which could rise to a whopping £1000 if disputed. 

A word to the wise though- your car horn is considered to be a safety feature, so if yours isn't working it will be classed as a fault when it comes to MOT time.


5. Driving with too many potatoes in your car

Any guesses as to the country that this absolute corker of a law comes from? 

It's actually from our Antipodean friends and is a bit of a hangover from the food regulations that were introduced post World War Two and the Great Depression. With food rations at a premium, the Australian government decided to place restrictions on the number of potatoes that one could transport from place to place at any one time. 

As a consequence, anyone found to be hoarding more than 50kg of spuds in the boot of their Ute can face a fine of AU$2000 with repeat offenders having to fork out a meaty AU$5000 for their crimes against carbs. 


3 hanging shirts

6. Driving without a shirt

It seems that no matter how hot it is or how dodgy the air conditioning in your hire car may be, driving topless is considered a big no-no in both Thailand and Spain.

In Thailand, if you're caught behind the wheel bare-chested, the fine may be relatively low but it's generally not worth the risk. In Spain, cruising around without a top could land you with a 200 Euro fine.  

That's not all. 

If you're planning on driving at all on the Spanish roads, it pays to know that it is also illegal to drive in flip flops, and covering your ears in any way, including wearing headphones, could lead to sanctions too.

Calendar showing days of the week

7. Driving on a Monday if your number plate ends in 1 or 2

Search for blog posts on driving in Manila and you'll be met with overwhelmingly unanimous advice: don't do it! The national capital region known as Metro Manila is billed as one of the most difficult places to navigate in the world - and anyone who's tried to negotiate Coventry's ring road will agree that is quite the accolade.

Metro Manila is awash with a tonne of confusing and conflicting driving rules that are subject to change. Perhaps our most favourite of all is this: Anyone who is driving a car with a number plate featuring a 1 or 2 cannot drive anywhere on a Monday.

Don't worry, it's not discriminatory - on Tuesdays, cars with a 3 or 4 are prohibited, on Wednesdays, 5 or 6, Thursday is the turn of plates with 7 or 8 and Fridays 9 or 0. Confused? It gets worse.

Some cities within the region operate 'window' hours in which the prohibited vehicles of the day are allowed out. More confusing still, there are certain roads on which the coding system doesn't apply, so all vehicles are able to use them at all times. The anomalies change so often and so fast that it's virtually impossible to keep track of them unless you're a Metro Manila local for whom it is vital to their daily commute. 

Which incidentally is often in the region of 3 hours for a one-way trip.

Woman driving a car

8. Driving in a dressing gown...if you're a woman

Yes, really. Whilst this little nugget might seem a little far-fetched/outdated/highly discriminatory it is actually a valid state law in...California.

Yep, one of the most open-minded (albeit a self-proclaimed attribute) states in one of the world's foremost powers actually penalises its female population for getting behind the wheel in their dressing gowns. It's fine for men though.

The mind boggles.

Child on a bicycle riding through a puddle

9. Splashing a pedestrian

Japan is a beautiful country, famed for being a nation of unwavering politeness. This is extended to its road users, who are expected to show due consideration to the pedestrians. So much so that it is illegal to splash a pedestrian by driving through a puddle - however unintentional and anyone who does so will be subjected to a fine.

Would-be puddle dodgers should be particularly vigilant from early June to mid-July when tsuyu - the Japanese rainy season - is at its peak.

Cars parked on a street

10. Parking on a street in Spain

Whilst not strictly illegal, parking on the street in Spain is subject to some fairly stringent rules and anyone found to be breaking them could be fined. Parking regulations vary between cities and times of the day but if you find yourself needing to park up, some or all of these may apply. Brace yourself:

In many areas parking is permitted on one side of any given street for the first half of the month - labelled as blue and red parking zones 1-15. During the second half of the month, parking is permitted on the opposite side of the same street (zone 16-31).

In one-way streets, parking is permitted on the side with even-numbered houses on even-numbered dates, whereas on uneven dates, you may park on the side of the street that holds uneven numbered houses. 

Parking must be in the direction of traffic flow on one-way streets but on the right-hand side of traffic on roads that have two lanes.

In addition to that, some towns have areas that allow you to park during working hours only but you'll need to obtain a permit for this.

Simple. Maybe.

Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte Birchall

Charlotte is a marketing specialist and a writing genius. She has a distinct and hilarious way with words and a fine eye for the best topics to cover. In Charlotte's hands we know you'll be both entertained and informed.