Legal Responsibilities

Overview:

To know your legal responsibilities in relation to:

  • You the driver
  • Your car
  • Your driving

Aims

To know your legal responsibilities as a driver

Objectives

  • To understand what you have to do to be legal to drive
  • To know what you have to do to keep your car legal
  • To be able to drive legally

You the driver:

Your driving licence

The first legal requirement for anyone wanting to learn to drive is to apply for their provisional driving licence. This can be applied for online or via post. The forms for postal applications can be found at main post offices or from the DVLA. To apply for your driving license you will need various forms of identification. An up to date list of the identification required can also be found online. A fee is payable to apply for your provisional licence.

If you want to know more about driving licences follow this link: Driving licence

When learning

You must be accompanied by a Supervising Driver. They must be over 21 with 3 years driving experience. They must not do anything that a driver must not do when driving. For example they can’t answer their phone or to have had an alcoholic drink.

Your health

All drivers must be medically fit to drive. You must be in full control of your car at all times. If you have certain health conditions then you may need to notify the DVLA. You must keep them up to date if anything gets worse or changes.

If you are taking any medication (prescribed or over the counter) always check with your doctor or pharmacist that it is safe to drive whilst taking them.

Even simple illness can affect your ability to drive safely. Minor ankle injuries such as a twisted ankle can reduce your pedal control. A cold can lessen your concentration if you are not feeling well.

Do not drive if you feeling unwell before your journey begins.

Your eyesight

To drive safely you must be able to see properly. If you normally wear glasses then these must be worn when driving. All drivers must be able to read a current style number plate from 20 metres away. You will need to take an eyesight test before you take your practical driving test.

If you want to know more about driving and eyesight tests follow this link:

Eyesight test

Driving Whilst Tired

Driving whilst tired increases your risk of being involved in a collision for the following reasons:

  • Slower reflexes – meaning your reactions may be slower if someone stopped in front of you
  • Poor decision making – taking chances you wouldn’t normally when pulling out of a junction
  • Headaches
  • Lack of concentration – your mind not remaining fully focused on what you are doing
  • Irritability

Never start a journey if you are tired. Try to avoid driving between 02.00 and 07.00 as this is when your body clock is naturally at its lowest and sleep is more likely to occur.

Take regular breaks if you are driving for a long period of time. Regular stops will improve your overall concentration. It is recommended that you take a break of 15 minutes after every 2 hours of driving.

Alcohol and drugs

Alcohol will seriously reduce your ability to drive safely. Driving with alcohol in your blood is very dangerous and you face severe penalties if you drive whilst over the legal limit. You must never drive if your breath alcohol level is higher than the legal limit. There is a legal maximum limit you can drink and still drive, but the safest option is to not drink any alcohol before driving your car.

Driving whilst under the influence of drugs is a serious offence. Drugs should never be taken before driving as even some over the counter medications can make you drowsy and affect your ability to drive safely. The effects of certain drugs can also last for up to 72 hours. This needs to be considered if driving even a few days after taking them.

The penalties if caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be severe and include large fines, a driving ban, a criminal record or a prison sentence.

Your car:

Vehicle Condition

You must always ensure that the vehicle you drive is:

  • Legally roadworthy
  • Is insured for you to drive
  • Has a current MOT test certificate if required
  • Has a valid vehicle excise licence (also called a tax disc)

To ensure the vehicle is legally roadworthy the following must be in good condition:

The braking system – all of the vehicles brake including the hand brake must be in good working order

The cars tyres – must meet the requirements for tread depth and good condition

Lights and indicators – must all be in good working order

Exhaust – noise from the exhaust must be within an acceptable level

Mirrors – appropriate mirrors must be fitted

Instruments and equipment such as speedometer and windscreen wipers must be in good working order.

MOT

All cars over 3 years old require a valid MOT certificate (unless exempt due to being manufactured before 1960.) The MOT certificate shows that your car has been tested to ensure it meets the required minimum standards for safety and standards. The MOT test also ensures your vehicle meets any environmental standards such as emissions.

The MOT test must be carried out once a year by a vehicle testing station appointed by the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA)

Insurance

The registered keeper of a vehicle must ensure it has motor insurance (except in certain situations if the vehicle is not going to be driven and will be kept off road.) Failure to insure your vehicle can result in large fines, a court prosecution or the vehicle being clamped, seized and destroyed.

Motor insurance can be arranged online, or in person with an insurance broker. Always check exactly what is insured and the amount of excess you will need to pay if making any claim when taking out a new policy.

If you are going to be driving someone else’s vehicle always check that you are covered to do so through your normal insurance.

You must be able to produce your insurance certificate if asked to do so by the police or if you are involved in an incident.

Vehicle Excise Duty (Car Tax)

When you purchase a vehicle the tax is no longer transferred with it, as it has been in the past. Tax must now be purchased before you can drive the vehicle. This can be arranged online, over the telephone or via the post. It is important to remember that this must be arranged before you collect the vehicle.

If you sell, transfer ownership, scrap or export the vehicle the DVLA must also be notified, or you will be liable to continue to pay tax for it.

Your Driving:

Traffic rules and regulations

You must know the The Highway Code. This is tested in the theory test. You must also drive according to The Highway Code

The Highway Code ensures everyone is using the same set of rules. If you disobey the rules and laws then you can be committing an offence. Make sure you keep up to date with any changes to the rules and use the most up to date version of the Highway Code for reference.

You must always comply with:

  • All traffic signs and road markings
  • Signals given by police, traffic wardens and any other authorised person
  • Traffic signals for example at junctions, roadworks or pedestrian crossings

You must not drive dangerously, without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for other road users.

Most important: There is no right of way! You must give way if that would help avoid an accident. Look up page 34 in The Highwaycode for the advice in full. Ask your driving-pro instructor about anything you are not sure of. He is the expert after all. 

Mobile phones

It is illegal to use a hand held electronic device whilst driving. This includes phones and SatNav. Even a hands free phone can be a distraction, so the safest idea is to not use one at all. Switch off your phone whilst driving so you are not distracted by any calls or tempted to answer it if it rings. You are four times more likely to have a crash if you are using a mobile phone whilst you drive.

If you need to make a call always ensure you find a safe and appropriate place to stop the car before doing so. Once stopped turn your engine off before using the phone.

Anyone supervising a learner driver also has to abide by the same rules on mobile phone use whilst driving as if they were driving.

Accidents

These are now called incidents. An accident means there was nothing you could do about it. An incident means there was something you could have done about it. This might be to have been driving slower for example.

Road traffic incidents are always a possibility, even if you take the greatest care possible.

If you are involved in any incident you must stop. Always use your hazard warning lights to warn other traffic of the potential danger and switch off your engine. If anyone is injured (including yourself) call an ambulance using 999 or ask someone else to do so.

If you are involved in a collision that causes damage or injury to another person, vehicle, animal or property you must stop, give your own and the vehicles owners name and address and the registration number of the vehicle to anyone who has reasonable grounds for requiring them. If you do not do this at the time, it must be reported to the police as soon as possible and always within 24 hours. If another person has been injured then you must also produce your insurance certificate at the time or following the same rules.

If passing the scene of an incident (where others have already stopped to assist) do not become distracted or slow down unnecessarily, always follow the directions given by the police and look out for warning signs and lights.

Check out our Accident SOS

Recap:

Everyone is subject to the same rules and laws when driving. This helps to keep everyone safe. This is because we all know what to expect.

At the end of this session you should know:

  • What legal documents you need to have for driving
  • How your health and condition can affect your safe driving and what the legal consequences might be
  • What legal documents you need for your car and what it needs to be legal
  • What you need to do so you can drive legally.

Further Reading:

The Highway Code: Most of it

Driving The Essential Skills: Section 2

On your driving test:

On Test: Legal responsibilities

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