Drivers could be fined for using common ‘thank you gestures’ on UK roads

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 26th January 2023

Motorists are being warned that some common unspoken rules of the road could actually see them hit with a hefty fine.

Given that us Brits are known for our manners and being polite, it has become common practice for drivers across the country to use a number of popular gestures to say thank you to our fellow road users when they give way to us, let us into a junction or lane, or just generally do something to help us out on the road.

A quick wave, thumbs up, or a flash of the headlights takes just a second to do, but the kindness goes a long way and helps to keep the peace.

In fact, when another driver doesn’t say thank you, we tend to think it’s pretty rude.

To prove this point, a new study of UK drivers was conducted by National Tyres and Autocare, and it found that one in five drivers choose to flash their headlights to say thanks, while one in three like to give a classic wave, and then one in six opt for a simple thumbs up.


But did you know that some of these gestures are actually in breach of the Highway Code and could end up landing us in a bit of trouble and see us have to fork out money if we’re caught in the act?

In some cases, fines can rack up as high as £1,000.

Motorists are being warned that some common unspoken rules of the road could see them fined / Credit: Nabeel Syed (via Unsplash)

When it comes to flashing our headlights to say thank you, rule 110 of the Highway Code actually states that we should “only flash headlights to let other road users know that you are there”, and we should not do not flash them to “convey any other message or intimidate other road users”.

Using hazard lights is another common way to say thank you, but again, according to rule 116 of the Highway code: “You must not use hazard warning lights while driving or being towed unless you are on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead.”

It’s stated that we should only use hazard lights “for long enough to ensure that your warning has been observed”, and nothing more.


By far the most common way to say thank you on the road during the daytime is to give a classic wave or thumbs up, but according to rule 160 of the Highway Code, once moving a vehicle you should “drive or ride with both hands on the wheel or handlebars where possible as this will help you to remain in full control of the vehicle at all times”.

It’s common practice for drivers across the UK to use gestures to say thank you / Credit: Vladimir Proskurovskiy (via Unsplash)

It adds: “You may use driver assistance systems while you are driving but make sure you use any system according to the manufacturer’s instructions.”

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The latter of these common thank you gestures is the one that could land drivers in the most trouble if caught, as not only can fines rack up to £1,000, but being in breach of having proper control of your vehicle could also mean discretionary disqualification, and three penalty points on your licence as well.

Featured Image – Jan Baborak (via Unsplash)