Top 12 worst driving habits

Avoiding bad drivers can sometimes be difficult with so many cars on UK roads.

In most cases, drivers might not know that they've committed a motoring faux pas. But in some cases, particularly careless driving goes against The Highway Code, or could lead to a car accident.

So, it's good to keep your habits in check and think about how you drive every now and again. See if you commit any of these driving sins.

What is careless driving?

Careless driving is defined in the Highway Code as:

  • Driving dangerously

  • Driving without due care and attention

  • Driving without reasonable consideration for other road users.

The Code might be a set of guidelines rather than the law. But the police draw on it when determining whether a driver has committed an offence under the Road Traffic Act 1988. The Act classes careless, and inconsiderate, driving as follows:

“If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he (sic) is guilty of an offence.”

Penalties for driving-related offences

If the police decide that you’ve committed an offence, the outcome could be anything from:

Having points on your licence could also increase your car insurance costs when you renew you policy, as you could be seen as a larger risk on the road. And drivers with convictions might find it harder to get a policy in the first place.

You could also face a ban and for serious offences, such as causing death by dangerous driving, with up to 14 years imprisonment.

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12 of the worst driving habits

There’s always a chance that bad driving could result in injury or death to an innocent person.

This is undoubtedly one of the main reasons people get so irate about terrible or reckless driving habits.

With this in mind, we present a dozen of the most inconsiderate or downright dangerous driving habits that many of us deal with on a regular basis.

There are many other dodgy behaviours behind the wheel that didn’t make the list, such as honking horns and revving up at junctions.

But few people would surely quibble the following rogues’ gallery of appalling driving practices.

Tailgating

Unlike some of the others listed here, tailgating is not only profoundly irritating, but also dangerous.

This is because it tends to be on motorways and dual carriageways, that another motorist will attempt to pressurise you to move over.

The main issues here are that the driver being pressurised may spend too much time looking in their rear mirror. And rising anxiety could lead to mistakes, such as speeding up to pacify the bully behind.

Also, if incident happens ahead, and you have to brake, the tailgater could then ram into your car.

The best solution is to safely move into a different lane to let them pass.

If you can’t, you could gradually slow down to a still sensible speed. Then, if a tailgater does slam into your car there’s less chance of grievous injury or significant damage.

This might annoy the driver behind, but it’s a safer course of action.

Hogging the middle lane

Driving in the middle lane rather than moving over to the left lane could cause a huge tailback on motorways, ratcheting up the stress levels.

It could lead to accidents, as drivers take chances to slip into the outside lane, causing cars in that lane to brake sharply.

Anyone hogging the middle lane would be in breach of Part 264 of the Highway Code. They could face a £100 spot fine and three points on their licence.

Hogging the outside lane

Staying in the outside lane, which is intended for overtaking only, could cause serious tailbacks and encourage cars to pass on the left. It’s also a breach of Part 264 of the Highway Code.

Undertaking

The two previous examples of poor driving can prompt drivers to pass a lane hog by undertaking, which means passing on the left.

This isn’t illegal in itself unless it is deemed dangerous. But it could cause accidents if the car being passed, or one further ahead, moves to their left.

Driving with full-beam lamps

It‘s not illegal to drive with full-beam lights on, but it is inconsiderate to fellow road users who can be blinded by the light.

It can be dangerous both to other drivers, and of course to the person leaving full-beam on, as an oncoming vehicle could swerve into their path.

Failing to indicate

Failing to indicate when changing direction is another annoying and potentially dangerous habit. It’s not illegal, but nevertheless it’s to be avoided.

One reason this makes the list is that many bad drivers can’t be bothered to indicate even when other road users are present.

Often they don’t flick the indicator lever if they’re turning into a side road. As you can imagine, this is annoying if you’re waiting for an opportunity to turn into the main road.

On the flip side, indicating doesn’t give motorists the right to act, it just shows an intention.

You can’t force your way into traffic just because your indicators are on. And don’t forget you still need to give way to pedestrians who might be crossing.

Jumping traffic lights

Running a red light can be dangerous to other road users, including cyclists and pedestrians. It’s also illegal, and red light cameras could catch you in the act.

Even if you just cross the white line at traffic lights, you risk a minimum of three points and a £100 fine.

Moving away slowly from traffic lights

Slowly moving off when the traffic lights change isn’t illegal. But it could annoy other drivers, especially only one or two cars manage to cross before the lights change red again.

Also, it could be dangerous. A frustrated driver following the snail-like car might look for an opportunity to overtake when it’s not safe to do so.

Last-minute braking

Slamming the brakes, or brake checking, is only allowed to avoid a serious and imminent accident, such as a child running into the road.

In most other instances, including to ward off tailgaters, it’s an offence that could result in:

  • Points on your licence

  • An unlimited fine

  • Up to two-years in prison.

Brake checking could result in a higher penalty, even a custodial sentence, in certain circumstances.

For instance, if a driver deliberately intended to cause a crash so they could claim on the other drivers’ insurance.

In this case, the offence would be ‘crash-for-cash' fraud, which is serious and likely to lead to a prison sentence.

Blocking traffic

With so many cars on the road it seems common sense to try to make driving as stress-free as possible.

Blocking roads so drivers can’t make a right turn, and needlessly hold up all the traffic behind, is not on.

The same goes for stopping in box junctions, which are there to help the flow of traffic.

It’s a selfish action that really can enrage even the most normally-passive driver. And it's illegal, with guilty parties facing a fine of up to £130.

Parking on the pavement

Drivers who park their cars on pavements, to the extent that pedestrians, wheelchair users and parents with prams can’t pass, can be a menace.

Not only is it downright inconsiderate, it could be dangerous to the pedestrian. This could be particularly bad for people with visual impairments, who may be forced to pass the car on the road.

Parking on the pavement isn’t illegal outside of London. But there are plans to introduce a change in the law to make ‘Unnecessary obstruction of the pavement’ illegal

It’s a different matter when it comes to driving onto the pavement to park.

Drivers who do so face a fine and may have their car towed away. This action has been illegal since the creation of the Highways Act 1835, and is now in Part 145 of the Highway Code.

Using hazard lights to excuse bad parking

One that makes people feel like tearing their hair out is when drivers park badly, stick their hazard lights on, and block traffic.

It could be frustrating for many to be stuck behind a car parked in this way, and potentially dangerous. Part 116 of the Highway Code covers hazard lights and states: “Never use them as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking.”

Why take the risk?

Not all of these examples of bad driving could land the driver in hot water with the police, but that’s not the point.

Who wants to risk getting stopped by a blue light, or even earning a reputation as a bad driver?

Points on your licence could result in higher car insurance costs in the future. So save your wallet, and play nice with other drivers.

Bad driving habits that could damage your car

The list above could cause an incident with another driver. But there are several driving quirk that you might say 'that's just my driving style' but are actually damaging to your motor.

Filling your car with too much stuff

Overloading your car beyond its recommended weight capacity could lead to a few issues. For starters, you could make your car much less fuel efficient.

And you're putting additional strain on the car's suspension, brakes and chassis. This means more effort required to get you from A to B, and more wear and tear on your car parts. That means a trip to the garage much sooner than you thought.

Ignoring your car's dashboard warning lights

Those dashboard lights are there for a reason. Sure, you might try and ignore the flashing petrol icon when you're low on fuel, but it's worth taking any dashboard warning light seriously.

Something that could be an easy fix if spotted early enough could end up in being something that fails your MOT or  writes your car off if ignored for six months.

Having poor clutch control

Easing off on the clutch too soon could result in that horrible gear grinding noise as your car struggles to get into gear. That puts additional wear on a part of your car that's already getting near constant use. And according to Book My Garage, a new clutch costs around £325, on average.*

Hitting speed bumps too fast

Speed bumps are designed to slow you down. Driving over speed bumps at a higher-than-normal speed, or hitting the bump at an awkward angle, could play havoc with your car's suspension.

The approach to speed bumps should be no more than 15 mph. If it's one of those awkward middle-of-the-lane bumps, it gives you time to align your wheels. This gives you the smoothest possible ride over the bump and minimises the wear on your car.

Riding the brake

Keeping your foot on the brake pedal for an extended period of time is known as 'riding the brake'. Having the brake engaged for a long time could cause it to overheat, wearing out your brake pads before their time. 

There's a temptation to do this when driving downhill as a means of controlling the car. Instead, try using a lower gear when going downhill. This lets the engine control your speed, and you might only need to intervene with a light tap or two on the brake.

This gives it time to cool between hits, and could help prolong its life.

*Prices correct as of October 2021.