You’ve bought a car. It’s yours to use and enjoy, and where you go is entirely up to you. But think about what you do in it.
Cars are very personal things – more than just a means of getting from A to B. They become part of us, part of the family, and a big part of life.
Get inside, shut the doors and you’re in your own private domain. Warm, dry and ready to go. That’s why cars are, for most people, the second most expensive purchase they’ll ever make after their house, and certainly something they would never want to be without.
That makes it important to look after your car, as we have said many times here at The Car Expert. A car is for driving. So drive it, enjoy it and use it for the purpose that it was designed, and not for a whole host of other reasons.
Here’s a list of ten top things not to do in your car, and why. Are you guilty of any of them? Chances are at least one of these is on your list – and now’s the time to put a stop to it:
1. Eating while driving
While it’s not illegal to eat while in control of a car, if you get distracted as ketchup falls from your quarter pounder onto your lap or you burn your hand on a hot cup of coffee, the police might take a dim view of your carelessness.
Popping a sweet or small snack into your mouth while on the move is probably ok, but avoid the three-course meal.
2. Eating while stationary
It’s a similar story to eating and driving, except for a different reason. Certainly it’s safer but, tuck into a large takeaway while in the driving seat and you will almost certainly drop some of it on the floor.
At the very least, you’ll brush your trousers or skirt down when you’ve finished and spread hundreds of crumbs onto the carpets. Research from insurance company Ageas revealed that the bacteria bacillus cereus, one of the most common causes of food poisoning, lives in cars.
3. Using it as a cupboard
Because the tailgate locks with the rest of the car, many drivers confuse the boot as a spare cupboard. But they really shouldn’t. Every extra item stored inside the car adds weight and with that comes poorer fuel economy and extra wear on the car’s suspension and tyres.
If there’s too much stored in a hatchback or estate car’s rear space, it can also block visibility and becomes a moving hazard in an accident or emergency stop. Anything on view is also an invitation to thieves.
4. Playing loud music
We’ve all pulled up at traffic lights to be treated to someone else’s musical tastes whether we want it or not. Not everyone appreciates ear-splitting heavy rock or booming reggae, and some police forces agree – many have considered treating loud music in a car as anti-social behaviour.
From a safety point of view, scientists have found that it can be distracting to drive with your speakers on fire, and it could also be dangerous if you can’t hear, for example, an ambulance approaching behind you.
5. Picking your nose (or anything else)
The research from Ageas showed that cars’ interiors, including their steering wheels, can become home to more than 3,826 units of bacteria per square inch, which is 19 times more than a toilet seat.
The most common bacteria lurking in our motors was pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause a skin rash, ear and eye infections, and even respiratory problems.
As with eating while driving, it’s not specifically illegal to smoke while behind the wheel. But similarly, if you have an accident, and lighting or smoking the cigarette was found to be the cause of distraction, you could end up with a charge of careless driving.
You certainly should not smoke in a car carrying anyone under the age of 18 – that’s against the law. Meanwhile, it’s hardly going to increase your car’s value or enjoyment of travelling in it, if the upholstery and carpets smell like an ashtray.
7. Shaving or applying make-up
Safety group RoSPA describes a distraction as ‘paying attention to a second activity while driving’. That second activity can mean the driver is less likely to see or anticipate hazards and therefore increases the risk of an accident.
Using an electric shaver or putting on makeup while driving would certainly qualify as a distraction and you shouldn’t do either on the move. Both also leave behind human particles which can collect and multiply as bacteria.
8. Driving with a loose pet
It’s not only a cause of great distraction if you have the pet dog loose in your car, but it would also be highly dangerous if you were in an accident with an unrestrained animal sat behind you. And if the dog was loose on the front seat when the airbag went off, there’s no telling where Rover would end up.
Best to buckle up the pooch on the back seat with a genuine pet harness. That way everyone has a safe and comfortable ride.
9. Using your phone while driving
It’s not only illegal to use a phone (or satnav) while driving, it’s against the law to even hold one. There have been several high profile cases reported where cell phone users have caused road accidents, and the police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because of the phone.
Don’t forget that you can’t even use your mobile when you’re stopped at traffic lights, waiting in a traffic queue or supervising a learner driver. Make sure you’re hand-free at all times.
10. Drinking and driving
There’s not much to add to this one and you shouldn’t be driving if you need reminding. It’s simple – if you are going to drink, don’t drive, and if you are planning to drive, don’t drink.