08000 93 00 94
Call us free to discuss your claim

Which of these common driving habits is illegal?

August 20, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Most of us are aware of the need to avoid distractions when driving, but many people still find it tempting to use their car journey as a time to grab something to eat or catch up on phone calls.

You may be surprised by one survey from 2013 that found nearly 50% of women apply cosmetics when driving, which insurers estimate leads to 450,000 car crashes annually.

Police have begun using more covert methods to catch increasingly bizarre acts from those behind the wheel. Through this, one police authority in Hampshire released a video of a lorry driver actually brushing his teeth behind the wheel!

But which common distractions, while not actually illegal, are still pretty dangerous, and could result in a driving without due care and attention charge?

Illegal Driving Habits

Over the last year the law has changed, with police now holding the power to hand out fixed penalty notices for careless driving, and the level of penalty for most motoring offences now being set at £100.

One of the key issues is that although most people are aware of the law against driving and mobile phone use, many drivers still find it impossible to avoid this distraction.

Using your phone is only legal if you are safely parked or calling 999 in an emergency and unable to stop. In most cases, punishment is at least three penalty points and a £100 fine, but in serious cases it could mean a driving ban. Even if you were using hands-free, if police believe you were distracted while driving then you could still be penalised.

It is now common knowledge that seat belts are a legal requirement, and most drivers are quite happy to conform to the seat belt rule. However, it may be surprising to some that failing to wear a seat belt is enforced by a fine of up to £500.

woman with hand out of the car smoking

Careless Driving Offences

What many road users find confusing is that there are things that may be technically legal but that could very well lead to a 'driving without due care and attention' offence, including:


Trying to read printed maps or directions 

Eating behind the wheel
Road safety charity Brake found that nearly a third (29%) of motorists have opened and consumed something behind the wheel. A similar number had something that was passed to them and opened by a passenger, while the majority (62%) had eaten while driving in the previous 12 months.

Driving in flip-flops
And while footwear may seem irrelevant to some, last summer a survey by a major insurance company found that flip-flops are more hazardous to drive in than high heels. Yet a third of drivers admit wearing them, even though a tenth also admitted they'd had a near-miss while doing so. Most worryingly, the fact that they can slow braking times by 0.13 seconds means that at 60mph you'll travel more than three metres further.

Careless Driving Consequences

Even though many of these activities aren't actually illegal, the consequences can still be severe - both in terms of financial loss and the risk of serious injury on the road.

To some people the thought of having penalty points slapped on their licence along with paying out a fine and increased insurance premium, is a sufficient deterrent. Sadly for others this is not, and so it is important they take time to consider the potential consequences and keep these habits out of the car - not only for their own safety, but for that of their passengers and other roads users.

I feel the message is clear. If you're driving, don't use the time to do your make-up, have lunch or chat on the phone, and please wear a proper pair of shoes!


What driving habits do you think are the most dangerous and should be made illegal? Let me know in the comments.


About the author

Janet Guerriero photoJanet Guerriero is a team manager at Spencers Solicitors and has more than 30 years experience in handling injury compensation claims, specialising in those caused in road accidents.

Janet's last blog was what's being done to deal with uninsured drivers?

Posted in: Blog


London's Cycle Hire scheme: Four years on, what's the verdict?

August 15, 2014 at 8:35 AM

The Barclays public bike-hire scheme in London, popularly called 'Boris Bikes' after Mayor Boris Johnson and based on a similar Paris model, marks its fourth anniversary this month. As part of the fourth birthday celebrations, on the weekend of August 16-17 there was free cycle hire for 24 hours.

Yet has it been an unqualified success?

With the sponsorship of Barclays Bank ending next year, and Transport for London currently looking for a new partner, what does the future hold for the scheme?

Row of Bicycles in London

Cycling in London - Statistics

Over the last four years membership of the scheme has grown to 196,000, with 11,200 bikes and 18,500 docking points across London. Since the launch there have been 30 million cycle hires, or well over 578,380,000 minutes of cycle rides, and these have mainly been for leisure use.

In the last decade cycling in London has almost trebled, and cyclists now account for almost a fifth of all road-based traffic within the capitals centre. Against this wider backdrop many users of the Boris Bike scheme are also full of praise and enthusiasm for it.

In a recent poll, more than three quarters of Londoners were found to be aware of the cycle hire programme, and almost a fifth said they'd used it in the last month, so it has undoubtedly achieved a very high profile.

Boris Bikes Criticism

Yet the scheme is not without its detractors, with critics citing that taxpayers contribute anything from £1,400 to £4,000 per bike per year towards the cost of running the scheme. This is in stark comparison to New York and Montreal, which are fully funded by their sponsorship, or the Paris scheme that actually makes nearly £13 million per year for the city council.

Cycle hire in Paris

It has even been pointed out that the yearly taxpayer subsidy would actually buy every annual member of the programme their very own bike.

There are also the safety worries surrounding thousands of unfamiliar cyclists taking to the roads and getting themselves injured. However research published earlier this year in the British Medical Journal found that the medical benefits for those using scheme do outweigh any risks, and that cyclists riding with the scheme were at no greater risk from injury than cyclists not using it.

Dr Goodman from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine commented:

"When the cycle hire scheme was introduced, there were widespread concerns that increasing the number of inexperienced cyclists in central London would lead to higher injury rates. On the contrary, our findings suggest that the scheme has benefited the health of Londoners and that cycle hire users are certainly not at higher risk than other cyclists."


Wider Benefits of Cycling

The health benefits of biking are well-known, with regular cyclists on average having the fitness of someone 10 years younger. Cycling is therefore also worth some £128m to the economy annually, when calculated in terms of prevented absenteeism.

And despite the cycle schemes need for taxpayer support, there are still very real economic benefits. The Transport for London sponsorship proposal is targeting a 20% increase in current cycling levels by 2015, which could save the economy £207 million in terms of reduced traffic congestion and £71 million in terms of lower pollution levels.

London Cycle Hire Review

In my opinion the London cycle hire scheme has been an unmitigated success, and its birthday should be celebrated by cyclists around the country. While there is rightly criticism of the unforeseen taxpayer contribution, raising serious questions about how the scheme's original sponsorship was setup, compared to the cost of other methods of transport it's a drop in the ocean. This is even before we consider the potential £400+ million upside provided to the economy overall.

For me any investment in cycling infrastructure that allows a commuter, tourist or enthusiast to choose to make their journey on a bike, thereby receiving both the environmental and health benefits that go along with it, is well worth the cost.

Cycle hire has become part of London's transport landscape and, with nearly a third of Londoners saying they are likely to use the scheme in the future, there are plenty of reasons to feel cheerful about 'Boris bikes' as the scheme turns four.


Are you for or against the London cycling scheme? What changes would you make, or would you like to see a similar scheme in your town? Let me know in the comments.


About the author

Helen Reynolds photoHelen Reynolds is a Chartered Legal Executive within Spencers complex injury team. Helen is extensively experienced in personal injury law having been working with injured people for over twelve years, specialising in claims involving serious injuries and cycling accidents.

Helen's previous blog was Michael Schumacher and Traumatic Brain Injury.

Posted in: Blog


What has Health and Safety ever done for us?

August 8, 2014 at 2:57 PM

How often have you been told that 'health and safety' is the reason a common sense request can't be completed?

Cartoon of trapeze artist with a hardhat

Over the last few years it feels like the H&S excuse has been increasingly trotted out to explain why almost any frustrating procedure is in place and why it cannot be changed.

Much of this stems from the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, which is the primary piece of legislation covering occupational (workplace) safety in the UK. But with all the inconvenience it causes, why on earth did we bring this legislation on ourselves, and was it really worth it?

Health and Safety Myths

When it comes to decisions that are attributed to health and safety, there is no shortage of baffling myths around.

In the workplace we have heard of office workers prohibited from hanging Christmas decorations, flip flops outlawed, engineers banned from climbing stepladders, and even trapeze artists made to wear hard hats - all in the name of health and safety.

Cartoon of children getting candyfloss with no sticks

Such myths continue in our public areas, with other reported cases of supermarket staff 'not allowed' to water dying plants, candy floss on sticks declared 'banned', and a pub that allegedly didn't provide a mirror in its disabled toilet 'for health and safety reasons'.

But what we must be aware of is that none of these has any grounds in the law.

In fact the urban legends have now gotten so great that the Health and Safety Executive has even set up its own Myth Busters Challenge Panel to tackle these reports and put right the outlandish stories so often distorted in the media.

With so much bad (and erroneous) reporting, it's no wonder we think of health and safety as the business of miserable killjoys who would prefer no one to have any fun.

Reducing Workplace Injuries

Looking past such stories, the reality is that the Health and Safety at Work Act, forty years old this year, has radically enhanced safety in workplaces across the UK, and you now are less likely to die or be seriously injured in the workplace than ever before.

The Act led to the formation of both the Health and Safety Commission and the Health and Safety Executive, and it is these bodies which regulate the law, help reduce risk and bring irresponsible employers to justice in the courts.

For example, below are just a few of the key statistics on workplace safety in the UK:

• In 1974 annual deaths at work were at 650, yet today in 2014 they are at a record low of 133 - a fall of 85%.

• Injuries sustained at work have dropped by more than three quarters (77%) in the same period, from 336,701 to just 78,222.

• The UK's rate of fatal injuries at work, at 0.71 per 100,000 employees, is significantly below most other EU member states, including big economies like Germany and France.

I find it worthwhile to remember some of these figures whenever somebody quotes health and safety as an obstacle or complains about 'risk assessments', as well as upon hearing the current trend of politicians declaring a need to 'cut red tape' from the system.

Put simply, this 'red tape' has a proven track record of saving lives, or as The Telegraph's Philip Johnston explains it:

"[the health & safety at work act] has arguably saved more lives than any other piece of legislation, including the ban on drink driving or the compulsory wearing of seat belts in cars. It may well have reduced deaths by 5,000 or more."

So what are the benefits of the Health and Safety at Work Act?

Apart from creating a world-class regulatory system, vastly reducing the chance of an injury at work, ensuring employers have to take our safety seriously, and creating laws which ensure those who create risk are responsible for proportionately managing it ..... yes apart from all that, what has the Health and Safety at Work Act ever done for us?! 

What health and safety myths have you come across? Do you think the balance between employer responsibilities and worker safety is at the right level?

Let me know in the comments.

About the author

Martyn Gilbert photoMartyn Gilbert is the Chief Information Officer at Spencers Solicitors and has worked in the legal industry for over 17 years, developing systems and processes to assist lawyers in helping injured people.

Posted in: Blog


© 2014 Spencers Solicitors Limited trading as Spencers Solicitors. Registered in England and Wales No. 06059110. Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (No. 00466097). This website uses cookies to store information on your device, please read our privacy policy for further details and on how to opt out. Sitemap.