How to avoid driving fines this Christmas

As Christmas approaches, you may be thinking about adding some a few decorations to your car, or blasting out some of your favourite Christmas tunes while behind the wheel. But before you transform your vehicle into Santa’s sleigh or a Christmas tree on wheels, it’s important to be aware of the potential fines and points at risk if breaking any Highway codes with your vehicle decorations - neither of which are on anyone's Christmas list this year.

To help keep Britain’s drivers on the nice list, we’ve put together a list of rules and regulations you may not have known about, to keep you from getting in trouble on the roads this Christmas.

1. Make sure decorations do not limit your view of the road

Highway Code: Rule 30
Fine: Up to £1,000
Penalty points: Three

While you may be tempted to add some festive tinsel or simple snowflake stickers to your windows, you might want to think again as this could get you a fine of up to £1,000, by violating rule 30 in the Highway Code.

It’s important to always have a clear view of the road ahead of you, which includes ensuring that your wintery decorations are not causing any obstruction to your view of the road, as it is not only unsafe but could leave you with a hefty fine and penalty points.

2. Ensure your number plate is visible

Highway Code: Annex 6
Fine: £1,000

If you want to give the outside of your car a little festive flair by adding bows or even reindeer antlers, it’s crucial to make sure that in doing so you’re not breaking any Highway Code rules or regulations.

So, before you set off, you must ensure that your number plates are visible, to avoid being at risk of a fine of up to £1,000.

3. Don’t change or add lights to your vehicle

Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations: Regulation 11
Fine: £50

Glistening lights and Christmas time go hand in hand; however, drivers should be wary when using them to decorate their vehicle - especially when using classic Christmas colours such as red and green.

This is because it is an offence to have a red light at the front of any vehicle, a white light at the rear (unless reversing) of any vehicle, and green lights fitted anywhere on a vehicle that isn’t a Medical Practitioner vehicle. It doesn’t matter if the lights are mounted inside or outside the vehicle - if they are visible from the outside, drivers would be in violation of this rule and could face a £50 non-endorsable Fixed Penalty Notice.

Christmas lights could also distract you and other drivers, so we recommended leaving them to twinkle at home and on your tree, instead of your vehicle.

4. Costumes and outfits cannot interfere with your seatbelt

Highway Code: Rules 97 and 99 
Fine: Up to £5,000
Penalty points: Three to nine

With a variety of parties and celebrations often planned around Christmas time, you may fancy dressing up as an elf, or even Saint Nick himself. So, if you are the designated Santa or Mrs Clause this year, just make sure your jolly belly doesn’t prevent you from doing up your seatbelt or being able to access all of the car's controls.

According to rule 97 of the Highway Code, clothing and footwear cannot prevent drivers from using the controls in a safe manner, meaning if your Santa belly is getting in the way of the steering wheel, or if your pointy elf shoes are impacting your ability to use the pedals, you could land a £100 fine and three penalty points on the spot. And if the charge is taken to court, you could face a maximum fine of £5,000 and nine up to points.

Plus, if anyone in the vehicle is wearing a costume that gets in the way of fastening their seatbelt correctly, they must remove it to not only avoid a £500 fine, but to also keep all those in the vehicle safe (if they are under 14, then the driver will receive the fine).

5. Transport your Christmas tree safely

Road Vehicles Regulations: Regulation 100
Fine: £2,500
Penalty points: Three

For many people, choosing and decorating their Christmas tree is what gets them into the Christmas spirit. However, if you are purchasing a real tree and transporting it back home in your vehicle, it’s important to do so safely to avoid fines, points and even injuries.

Although there are no laws specifically related to transporting a Christmas tree, Regulation 100 of the Road Vehicles Regulations 1989 requires any load to be suitably secured so that it is not at risk of falling or being blown off the vehicle. So if the police believe your tree is unsecured or unsafe, you could face three penalty points and a £2,500 fine.

In addition, no matter how you are transporting your tree, make sure it doesn’t impact your view of the road, or you could face a £1,000 fine and three penalty points.

6. Don’t let the Christmas music distract you

Highway Code: Rules 148, 149 and 144
Fine: Unlimited
Penalty points: Three to nine

Everyone has a favourite Christmas song that really gets them into the festive spirit, and it’s always tempting to blast it from the speakers and sing along throughout December. However, Christmas karaoke should be left outside of the vehicle.

According to rule 148 in the Highway Code, safe driving requires concentration and for drivers to be distraction-free, so loud music and adjusting the radio should be avoided.

Under the driving without due care and attention offence of the Highway Code, there is an unlimited fine, and drivers are at risk of receiving between three and nine points on their licence if music interferes with their driving.

This doesn't mean you can’t listen to festive tunes altogether. Just be conscious of the volume, and select your songs responsibly, as using a hand-held device to switch songs can land drivers with a £200 fine and six penalty points.