Do you know your rights if you’re stopped by the police? It’s perhaps an unlikely scenario, unless you’ve been speeding, running a red light or doing something else which attracts the attention of the boys in blue. However, in some situations the police will do random spot checks and stop your car. If you are stopped, do you need to be carrying any paperwork with you?
The first thing the police will want to know is who you are, and whether you have the right to be driving the car they’ve stopped. There is no legal obligation to carry your driving licence with you at all times but most drivers pop their licence into their wallet along with credit cards and other identification. Even if you don’t have your driving licence with you, it’s unlikely that you’ll be stopped with nothing at all with your name, even if it’s a debit card or student ID card.
Insurance and Tax
People who passed their driving test a decade or more ago will have grown up with the advice to always carry your motor insurance policy with you, and have the little paper tax disc in the window. That’s all changed now, due to the tax and insurance system going online. Police no longer have to ring around the various insurance companies to check whether you have a policy, and who is insured to drive on that policy. All information is linked into a central database, and all the police have to do is enter your registration number to pull up all of the information. Similarly, road tax is digital too, and the paper tax disc is a thing of the past. Police can instantly tell which cars are taxed and which aren’t. Driving around without valid road tax is never a good idea, as being caught will result in an instant fine and up to six points on your licence.
Just as the tax and insurance details are all held online, the MOT database has been computerised too. If you’re stopped by the police, they can check straight away whether your car has a valid MOT certificate or not. Even if you do have a valid MOT certificate, the police might still want to check your car over. The MOT certificate just shows that your car came up to the required standards on the day of the test, it’s not a guarantee for the rest of the year. It’s your responsibility as a driver to keep an eye on issues like the tread depth of your tyres and whether your headlights are working properly. If the police stop you and your car has a minor defect like a headlight not working, the Police will usually give you a 7 day notice to get it fixed and then report back to the police station with proof the work has been done.
So can you just leave your insurance documents and driving licence at home then? Legally, the answer is yes but consider what will make your life easier. If you are involved in an accident and need to claim on your insurance, it makes sense to have a note of your insurance company’s phone number and your policy number. Similarly, if you’re stopped by the Police, if you can quickly prove who you are with photographic ID you’ll be on your way quickly and without delay. Even though it’s not a legal requirement to carry papers with you, it often makes sense to photograph things like insurance policies on your phone, or just put your licence in your wallet.