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The legalities of keeping and driving vehicles in good order

April’s rather soggy driving conditions often result in more effort being required to keep vehicles clean. Apart from the obvious benefits of driving a clean car, there are real advantages too, in avoiding criminal prosecution. Failing to maintain a vehicle to the standard required by law can lead to penalty point endorsements, driving bans and fines being levied against the driver of a vehicle.

Lights, indicators, and reflectors must be clean and clear of debris. Vision must be clear of obstruction at all times, and number plates must be fully legible.

The following checks should be carried out by the driver of a vehicle before starting out on any journey:
■ Brakes and lights are in working order and properly adjusted to prevent dazzling other drivers.
■ Windscreen, windows and mirrors must be kept clean.
■ Tyre tread for cars, light vans and trailers must have a minimum depth of 1.6mm and free from defects, and there must be tread across the middle three-quarters and around the entire tyre.

The rules are strict in respect of window tinting, and the law states that 75% of light should be visible through the front windscreen and 70% for the front side windows. There is no law that applies to the rear windscreen or rear passenger windows.

The law states that it is a question of fact in the individual case as to whether the driver had reasonable cause to suspect that there was anything wrong with the brakes, tyres or steering. There are clear examples of successfully defending prosecutions where, for example, the vehicle has just been collected from a service centre and on the way home the brakes failed.

Car experts are warning motorists to tidy their vehicles for fear of being issued with heavy fines and strict punishments. The worst case scenario is that a driver could be charged with driving without due care and attention if any litter is found to obscure their vision of the road ahead, particularly blocking blind spots. The police can stop the vehicle and hand out on the spot fines, or worse, report the driver for driving without due care and attention, which can result in a sentence being passed by a court of up to 9 penalty points or a disqualification and a fine being imposed. There could also be an impact in respect of insurance, where an insurer may refuse to indemnify those who do not maintain their vehicles to the standard required by their strict terms. Driving whilst uninsured carries a penalty of between 6 to 8 penalty points and a fine.

A person is guilty of an offence of using a vehicle in a dangerous condition where they use, cause, or permit another to use a motor vehicle or trailer on a road when:
a the condition of the motor vehicle or trailer, or of its accessories or equipment, or;
b the purpose for which it is used, or;
c the number of passengers carried by it, or the manner in which they are carried, or;
d the weight, position or distribution of its load, or the manner in which it is secured;
is such that the use of the motor vehicle or trailer involves a danger of injury to any

Offences committed under Section 40A of the Road Traffic Act carry a maximum fine of £2,500, but unlimited fines in respect of goods vehicles or those adapted to carry more than eight passengers. If, however, the driver can prove that they did not know, and had no reasonable cause to suspect that the use of the vehicle involved a danger of injury to any person.

Regular cleaning, servicing, and valeting should not only keep us and other road users safe, but also alleviate any concerns for drivers in respect of falling foul of the law.

Motoring Defence Solicitors are road traffic lawyers specialising in drink and drug driving offences. Based out of their central London offices, they provide free advice on a range of offences to motorists nationwide. You can contact Neil Sargeant for free on 0800 433 2880 or visit the website at

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