Valentine’s Day Fines
Whether you’ve got reservations for a delicious meal out, or are planning a trip to the cinema to watch a romantic film, a fine is probably the last thing you’re hoping to get out of Valentine’s Day. Despite this, there are a few things that, although they may be considered romantic, could actually leave you on the receiving end of a hefty fine, penalty points, or even imprisonment.
For example, depending on the outfit or shoes you decide to wear, you could end the night with a £1,000 fine and three penalty points added to your licence. So to help drivers avoid a Valentine’s Day disaster, we’ve put together a list of seven driving dos and don’ts to ensure you focus on love.
1. Make sure your view of the road isn’t blocked by balloons
Penalty: £1,000 fine + 3 penalty points
Although we might swoon at the thought of heart-shaped balloons around this time of year, drivers should be careful of how they transport them in their cars. A stray balloon could easily float into the driver's eyeline or obstruct their view out of the rear windows.
Failure to have full view of the road and traffic ahead can land motorists with a £1,000 fine plus three penalty points.
2. Never drink and drive
Highway code: Rule 95
Penalty: 6 months’ imprisonment, unlimited fine, obligatory disqualification
Being ‘wined and dined’ is all part of the date experience for many of us, but it should go without saying that you should not get in the drivers’ seat if you are over the legal limit.
It’s against the law to drive while unfit through drink and drivers who are found guilty of this offence can face six months’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, and even a driving ban - if they’re not disqualified the driver will receive 3-11 penalty points instead.
The penalties are of course more severe if the driver causes death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs. In this situation, they’d face anywhere between five years to a life sentence. So don't risk it. Organise another way home if you’re planning on drinking on your date.
3. Make sure your outfit doesn’t impact your ability to properly control the car
Highway code: Rule 97
Penalty: £1,000 fine +3 points
Getting dressed up for your date can be part of the Valentine’s Day fun, but don’t let your outfit land you with a fine. If you’re wearing high heels, platform soles or an outfit that restricts movement while driving, you could be fined £1,000 and be issued with three penalty points.
Drivers need to make sure that their clothing and footwear choices allow them to maintain proper control of the vehicle and a full view of the road and traffic ahead.
To be on the safe side, it might be worth popping on some comfortable flat shoes or a replacement outfit for the drive - and leave the heart-shaped glasses for when you arrive.
4. Don’t leave your engine running while walking your date to their door
Highway code: Rule 123
You’ll probably be keen to make a great impression on your date this Valentine’s Day, showing off your best manners and doing everything you can to make them feel special. For some, this might involve getting out of the car and walking them back to their door to make sure they’re safe at the end of the night.
However, drivers who leave their parked car unattended with the engine running or leave the engine running unnecessarily while stationary on public roads risk being fined up to £80.
The fine starts at £20 and can be bumped up to £40 if a fixed penalty notice is issued, however some councils, such as London, may allow traffic enforcement officers to issue a Penalty Charge Notice of £80 for idling vehicles. And you could face a parking fine too if you've stopped where you shouldn't.
As a rule of thumb, if the car’s going to be sat still for more than a couple of minutes, use the parking brake and switch off the engine to limit emissions and noise pollution. You'll avoid the potential risk of theft too.
5. Avoid using your phone behind the wheel - no texting, selfies or playing DJ
Highway code: Rule 149
Penalty: £1,000 fine + 6 penalty points
It is against the law to use a hand-held mobile phone, or a similar device like a tablet, for any reason when driving or stationary in traffic unless it’s to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency (contactless payments at a drive-thru are also allowed but we're hoping you're treating your date to something a bit more romantic…).
Drivers who are caught using their mobile phone behind the wheel can be fined £1,000 fine and six penalty points. Hands-free equipment is also likely to distract your attention from the road, so it’s definitely worth waiting until the journey ends to take a selfie or a romantic snap of the two of you or return any missed calls or texts. And be sure to press play on your romantic playlist before you set off.
6. Concentrate on the road while driving, not your date
Highway code: Rule 160
Penalty: 2 years’ imprisonment, unlimited fine, obligatory disqualification
Once you start driving, it’s time to let go of your partner’s hand, stop gazing into their eyes, and concentrate on the road.
According to rule 160 of the Highway Code, drivers should drive with both hands on the wheel and avoid all distractions to remain in full control of the vehicle at all times.
Failing to do so can be considered dangerous driving - an offence that comes with up to two years’ imprisonment, an unlimited fine, and an obligatory driving disqualification. If the driver isn’t banned, they can be given anywhere between 3 and 11 penalty points instead.
7. Make sure you can still see out of your windows after any steamy make-out sessions
Highway code: Rule 229
Penalty: £1,000 + 3 penalty points
As exciting as steaming up the windows in the back seat of the car may be, always remember to demist thoroughly before setting off. This needs to be done before you start driving, and forgetting to do so could result in a £1,000 fine along with 3 penalty points.
Advice for safe driving this Valentine’s Day
Alongside the essential driving rules we’ve outlined throughout this article, there are a number of other actions drivers can take to stay safe on the roads on Valentine’s Day and beyond.
What our expert says...
“With all the extra excitement and anticipation of the most romantic day of the year, some drivers might find themselves getting distracted behind the wheel. However, it's incredibly important that they are following the rules of the road and practicing safe driving not only avoid fines, but to keep themselves and their date safe.
Make sure any gifts or balloons do not impact your view of the road, that your outfit or shoes won't hinder your ability to control the vehicle, and that you either choose the romantic music before you set off, or let your date play DJ. And above all else, keep your eyes on the road and don't get distracted by trying to impress your date. And remember, penalty points will potentially increase the cost of your car insurance too.”
- Julie Daniels, Motor insurance expert at Comparethemarket