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Law on driving while low on fuel explained – and why it may lead to £5,000 fine

Running out of petrol while driving amid the fuel crisis could lead to significant fines or serious charges if you cause an obstruction or a crash, experts warn

Petrol stations are being thronged by long queues of drivers desperate to fill up

Drivers queuing anxiously at petrol stations as pumps run dry of fuel and stations bring in rationing measures risk running afoul of the law if they drive with an empty tank.

While there is plenty of fuel in supply, a lorry driver shortage has left oil giants struggling to transport it to the pumps.

The problem has led to panic buying with scenes across England of people queuing and bickering over fuel as forecourts shut and pumps run out of gas.

The fiasco means some drivers may feel forced to take a risk and making a journey while running low on petrol or diesel.

Not only will it be an inconvenience if you do run out, it could be dangerous if it happens on a motorway or a busy thoroughfare – and that could land you in trouble with the law, Essex Live reports.

Brits have faced panic at the pumps in recent days as petrol stations struggled to get fuel delivered


Daily Mirror/Andy Stenning)

In most vehicles, if your fuel light switches on that means you have 10 to 15 per cent of your tank left, according to the experts at the RAC.

If it starts flashing, then levels are even lower and you are in danger of becoming stranded as you drive.

Running out of fuel isn’t illegal in itself, but any careless or dangerous driving that results from it could see you punished under the law.

If you’re forced to stop in the road and cause an obstruction, you could receive a penalty of £100 and three points on your driving licence.

In a worst case scenario, if your empty fuel tank leads to a road traffic collision you could be issued with nine points and an unlimited fine.

Motorists queue for petrol at an Esso petrol station in Brockley, South London, yesterday



Careless driving carries an unlimited fine, which could run up to around £5,000 and up to nine penalty points.

And of course, causing a serious crash could land you in the courts to face serious charges.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy and Research, told the Daily Express : “We have very little sympathy for drivers who run out of fuel on the motorway.

A huge queue for an Esso in Maghull, Liverpool as drivers are warned not to panic buy


Julian Hamilton/Daily Mirror)

“There is no excuse for entering a motorway with low fuel or if you know something is wrong with your car.

“A breakdown puts you and your passengers at very high risk – many fatal crashes on a motorway involve a stationary vehicle.”

The RAC advise that you don’t enter a motorway while running low on fuel, however if you do and run out, you should pull over onto the hard shoulder and call for breakdown help.

The Government last night announced measures to tackle the shortage of drivers.

It will temporarily relax migration rules to allow in more than 10,000 workers to plug the gaps..

Haulage industry bosses have estimated there is a shortage of nearly 100,000 HGV and lorry drivers nationwide.

The problem has been blamed on combination of the loss of EU workers post-Brexit, and on delays to HGV driver training caused by the pandemic.

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