Many car enthusiasts may wish to make modifications to their vehicles.
The information and guidelines below will help you to understand which modifications are acceptable and which ones constitute an offence.
PSNI remind you that your driving licence is a privilege and not a right and that driving responsibly in roadworthy vehicles keeps our roads safe and helps to prevent collisions.
Common vehicle modifications:
The vast majority of large or big bore exhausts are illegal for use on public roads. The fact they may have passed an MOT test is irrelevant as this only checks for exhaust gasses and emission legislation compliance.
Big bore and sports exhaust systems are usually fitted to increase the sound emitted and this contravenes the Type Approval of the vehicle, which is an offence.
There is no requirement for a police officer to measure the sound level from the exhaust system, it only requires an opinion that the system is not standard and that it is noisier than a normal vehicle of the same specification.
It is not an offence to sell these exhaust systems, but it is an offence to fit one to your vehicle and drive it on a public road. Motorists who do so could be reported to court and may face a fine and court costs.
Heavily-tinted windows will seriously reduce your view in certain weather conditions and most definitely at night time.
The legal requirements allowed are 75 per cent of light through the front windscreen and 70 per cent of light through any glass either side of the driver’s head.
Any rear door glasses and rear window are not included in this requirement so they can be as heavily tinted as you like.
We do have instruments which can now measure the severity of a tinted window. If a window is found to be too heavily tinted the motorist could be subject to a £30 non endorsable Fixed Penalty Notice and issued with a notice to remedy the fault or in some cases,reported to court.
Blue lights – Under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (NI) 2000, it states “except for emergency vehicles it is an offence to fit a blue warning beacon or special warning lamp or device resembling such whether working or not”
Fog lights – For vehicles fitted with front fog lights (rear fog lights are also included), it is an offence to illuminate them unless visibility is seriously reduced, which is defined as driving rain, snow or fog with visibility less than 100 metres. Fog lights cause dazzle to other drivers and can attract a £30 non endorsable Fixed Penalty Notice.
Other lights – It is an offence to show a red light to the front of a vehicle (including a reflector) and a white light to the rear unless reversing.
Once again these offences are dealt with by means of a £30 non endorsable Fixed Penalty Notice.
It does not matter if the lights are mounted inside or outside the vehicle, just that the light can be seen from the outside. This could also include neon lights fitted under or on the side of a vehicle and red LED windscreen washer jets. Green lights can only be fitted on Medical Practitioners vehicles.
Number plates must conform to current requirements in relation to size in terms of the number plate itself and the characters, spacing, format and font.
You must not misrepresent the characters either, for example by spacing them to make a word or name or by strategically placing fixing screw covers to alter any character. Fonts including italic, bold and shadow are all illegal.
Number plates must be white reflective to the front and yellow reflective to the rear and the characters have to be black.
The exception to this rule is if the vehicle (note: the legislation states vehicle not the number plate itself) is registered prior to December 31, 1972, in which case black and silver number plates can be fitted front and rear.
If the number plates on the vehicle do not comply with the above legislation this could result in a £30 non endorsable Fixed Penalty Notice being issued and/or the DVLA being notified of the offence.
Ultimately the DVLA can withdraw the number plate from the vehicle temporarily or permanently, even though you pay for them, the DVLA still own the plate, you are just given the privilege of displaying the mark on a vehicle.
Stretch tyres are becoming more popular as the craze from Europe hits the United Kingdom.
Fitting this type of tyre to your car is illegal and could adversely compromise the handling of your vehicle.
The fitting of this type of tyre contravenes the Type Approval of the vehicle and renders it not fit for purpose as well as potentially invalidating your insurance.
This could lead to a prosecution of dangerous condition of vehicle, namely Art 54 of the Road Traffic (NI) Order 1995 and is subject to a £60 Fixed Penalty Notice and three penalty points endorsed onto your driving licence or being reported to Court.
You must inform your insurance company of any modifications or changes to your vehicle, whether you carry them out yourself or if the modifications were already installed when you purchased the vehicle.
Some examples of this are any non-standard or upgraded wheels and fitment of spoilers, wings and body kits.
Failure to do so could seriously reduce any future claim you make and in a worst case scenario completely invalidate your insurance.
Article 65 of the Criminal Justice (NI) Order 2008 – Anti-Social Driving Offences
Legislation in respect of certain anti-social driving offences can now be dealt with by Article 65 of the Criminal Justice Order.
Basically what that means is if you are seen:
Driving in a careless or inconsiderate manner
Driving on common land, a footpath or bridle way or any land which is not part of a road
Driving in a manner which is causing/has been causing, or is likely to cause alarm, distress or annoyance to members of the public.
Then an Article 65 warning can be issued to you. This warning is placed against both the driver and the vehicle and lasts for 12 months.
If the driver of the vehicle or the vehicle with the warning issued to it is then seen driving in any of those conditions again in the next 12 months the vehicle can be seized and, if not collected after paying for recovery and storage costs, will be crushed.
Please note that this relates to either the driver with the Article 65 warning or the vehicle.
Once you pass your driving test you are on a probationary period for two years. This means that, should you accumulate six penalty points on your driving licence within that period, you will automatically revert back to provisional licence holder entitlement until you re-take and pass your test again (both theory and practical parts).
Some of the offences that attract penalty points are excess speed, careless or dangerous driving, defective or illegal tyres, using a mobile telephone whilst driving, dangerous condition of vehicle and contravention of red traffic signals or solid white line systems.
Most of these will involve a £60 Fixed Penalty Notice and three penalty points endorsed on your driving licence, although if you are reported to court both the fine and the penalty points can be increased at the discretion of the Magistrates Courts.
If you are convicted of some driving offences they can also carry prison sentences along with a mandatory driving disqualification and discretionary driving test re-take (or extended test), namely offences of causing death by dangerous driving, dangerous driving, causing death by careless driving and causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The offences listed opposite are intended as a guide only and are not to be considered exhaustive.