Everyday law –  did you scrape your windscreen this morning?

This article is part of our Everyday law series where we look at examples of how law affects us as we go about our daily lives.

Temperatures dipped to below freezing this morning in one of the few last cold snaps of the year. Did you scrape your windscreen? If so, did you clear the whole screen or just enough for you to see out, commonly known as ‘portholing’?

Anyone caught portholing faces a £60 fine. It’s based on the requirement under road traffic legislation – in this case Regulation 30 of the Road Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1986 – to have a full view of the road.

Worse still you could be hit with three penalty points if you are found to be ‘causing or likely to cause danger by reason of use of unsuitable vehicle in a dangerous condition’, an offence under section 40A of the Road Traffic Act 1988, leading to a fine of up to £2,500.

And leaving the car running with the heater on to clear the windscreen while you pop in for a cup of tea is a no-no too, since you can’t leave a car unattended with the engine running on a public road under Regulation 107 of the 1986 Regulations.

Traffic offences fall under the area of criminal law. Many traffic offences are based on strict liability under criminal law, meaning that you can contravene them without having any intention to harm. Conversely, you can only be convicted of more serious criminal acts such as theft and murder if it can be proved that you had an intention to cause harm, or ‘mens rea.’

And it’s not just criminal law that you might be tangling with. If you decide to head out without clearing your windscreen and someone runs into you, you may have your damages reduced under the law of tort due to contributory negligence.

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