There’s a lot of confusion over what makes a vehicle roadworthy, and which car faults can get you fined. Sometimes, simply having passed an MOT test in the last year isn’t enough to keep you safe. That confusion’s costing UK drivers thousands of pounds and a fair few points on their licences. Buckle up for a quick breakdown of the rules with our car roadworthiness checklist.

Is it safe to drive with a cracked windscreen?

Okay, let’s tackle one of the most obvious ones first. No, driving with a damaged windscreen is absolutely not safe. The police know that, and so should you. It’s absolutely essential that you keep your windscreen in good condition, and you could easily get yourself pulled over if you don’t.

Not only that, but your windscreen doesn’t even need to be damaged to be unsafe. If your view of the road ahead’s obscured by snow or ice, for instance, you’re not driving safely. That means you’re risking a lot more than some cash or points on your licence. You’re risking lives – including your own.

Can I drive safely with worn tyres?

Again, this ought to be pretty obvious. If your tyre treads aren’t up to scratch, you’re not safe on the road. You can find yourself with driving penalties if your tread depth is under 1.6mm. You can measure this across the middle section of your tyres with a 20p coin. Sink it into the tread and check if you can still see the outer rim of the coin. If you can, your treads probably aren’t legal.

While you’re at it, make sure there aren’t any other obvious problems with your tyres. By law, they need to be undamaged, so check for things like scratches or other signs of trouble. Don’t take risks with things like this. If you’re lucky, all you’ll end up with is a fine – but it could still cost you up to £2,500 for each tyre that’s unsafe.

Can I get driving penalties for damaged lights?

Yes, you absolutely can! You need to check your lights are working as often as possible. Car lights don’t just let you see out on the road, they let other road users and pedestrians see you too. Police know to look for broken or dodgy lights. Don’t let getting pulled over (or worse) be the first you know about the problem.

Also, remember that flickering or dim lights can be a warning sign that there’s a problem in other areas of your car. You might need to take a look at your alternator, for instance.

Less obvious faults that can lead to driving penalties

Not every car fault that can get you fined is as easy to spot as dodgy lights or a cracked windscreen. In fact, some of the things that can make your vehicle “unroadworthy” aren’t really faults at all.

An example is a modified exhaust designed to ramp up the noise a vehicle makes. It’s not technically a mechanical fault, but the police could still pull you over for it. You can even get into trouble simply by loading too many people into your car. Carrying more passengers than your vehicle’s meant to carry (hint: count the seatbelts) can definitely be seen as unsafe driving.

Can I be fined if my MOT’s still valid?

Make no mistake - a current MOT certificate won’t protect you if your vehicle’s not roadworthy. Driving in an unsafe car could see you landed with a £2,500 fine per fault and 3 points on your licence.

In a lot of cases, things probably won’t go that far, though. Depending on the situation, you might get away with a warning to get the problem fixed immediately. Even so, there’s literally no reason to take risks with your wallet, your licence or your life. A few basic, regular checks will keep you safe on the roads, and out of trouble with the law.

If you travel for work, you understand how keeping your wheels roadworthy protects your livelihood. Talk to RIFT about getting your yearly tax refund for work mileage and more. We’re the UK’s leading tax rebate specialists, so you’re always better off with RIFT.