April 2021

Anybody who has seen Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will know that it’s a myth that driving in reverse winds back your odometer.

But there are plenty of other car-related urban legends that sound vaguely plausible, yet are nothing more than automotive mythology. Here are 7 of our favourites.

1) It’s illegal to have a light on in the car while you’re driving

This one is a grey area, because although it’s not strictly speaking illegal to drive with an interior light on, if a police officer sees you and deems it to be a distraction to either you or other road users then you can still be charged with careless driving.

So technically your parents weren’t lying to you when they told you to turn off the overhead light otherwise the policeman will come and tell you off. It’s just a bit of a stretch!

2) You’re allowed to drive 10% over the speed limit

Most speedometers have a small percentage margin of error and the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) don’t recommend prosecuting anybody for driving less than 10% over the limit. But if you get zapped by a police speed check unit and you’re even just 1 mile an hour over the limit it’s down to the police officer’s discretion whether or not to charge you.

3) Cheap supermarket fuel is bad for your engine

You think you’re being financially savvy filling up at Asda and then a smart mouth mate tells you that it’s a false economy because the damage you’re doing to your engine is going to cost you more to fix in the long run.

Not true! All fuel sold in the UK has to meet the same high minimum quality standards, but there are advantages to be gained by filling up with more expensive ‘performance fuels’. Some of these will lead to greater fuel economy so you’ll go further between refuelling, and some will clean your engine as they are used, breaking down the build up of deposits and reducing wear and tear.

4) You can’t get in trouble for splashing a pedestrian with a puddle

You can get in trouble for ‘just having a bit of fun’ and splashing a pedestrian. It’s regarded by the law (and the pedestrian) as ‘driving without reasonable consideration for other road users’ and could leave you with 3-9 penalty points if you get caught.

5) It’s OK to break the speed limit if you’re overtaking

The speed limit is the speed limit. Being in a rush, keeping up with the traffic and overtaking aren’t valid reasons to break that limit.

6) It’s illegal to eat or drink while you’re driving

There are no laws against eating or drinking whilst driving, but if it causes you to not be in proper control of the vehicle you could get charged with careless driving. Popping a mint into your mouth or taking a sip of water is very different to trying to eat a plate of fish and chips from your lap.

7) Fully comprehensive insurance means you can drive somebody else’s car

This varies from policy to policy so it’s a myth that it always means you’re covered. Fully comp policies used to cover this as standard, but most now only do so if you ask for (and pay for) it as an extra.

So check the terms and conditions before you drive somebody else’s car, and even then most policies only cover it in exceptional circumstances.