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Top 8 driving myths busted

There are plenty of myths surrounding the world of driving. (Image credit: Chloe de Brito)

If you're having a dream about falling and you don't wake up, you'll die. This is one of those myths that at least makes some sense, because it's true that if you don't wake up, ever, you will die.

There are plenty more alleged factoids we all take as read, like being able to dissolve a tooth in Coke (go on, try it), and many of them apply to the world of driving.

Here are just eight that you may be wasting your time believing, and that you can enjoy slapping people down with.

01. Men are better drivers than women

Yes, inherently we all feel this is true (and when I say we, I mean my side of the toilet block, obviously) but the facts quite simply say otherwise, and if you don't believe us, go and ask an insurance company; because they never lie.

Well, their actuaries don't anyway, and that's why women tend to get a better deal. A study of 100,000 insurance claims in 2015 by the Royal Automobile Association of South Australia showed women had made 7,000 fewer crash-insurance claims than men in the past two years.

The company also reported that men had caused nearly two-thirds of all rear-end crashes, which is one of the most common fender benders.

"The data indicates that women appear to be safer drivers and less likely to cause serious damage," said Hayley Cain, senior claims manager.

Men, of course, also have more of the dangerous, deadly accidents. Australian figures show blokes are as much as four times more likely to be involved in fatal crashes.

02. You should drive with your hands at 10 and two

It's incredible, really, that this line is still touted, when it's completely contrary to what's been taught at driving schools for decades. Or it would be incredible, except that so many of us are taught to drive by our utterly amateur parents, who hand down their bad habits, rather than by professionals.

The 10 and two position for your hands on the wheel either went out of fashion because of the invention of airbags (you were more likely to smack yourself in the face if one went off) or the advent of power steering, but either way, the change happened a long while ago.

Placing your hands at 9 and three on the wheel is now the accepted, and quite sensible, wisdom for driving.

03. Driving test examiners have to fail a certain number of people

And therefore, if you fail your test it probably wasn't  because you weren't good enough.

Where I grew up, the myth was that there was one examiner called "Failing Freddy", and if you got him, you were stuffed. No one ever reported being tested by a bloke called Fred, but the story was widely accepted as fact anyway.

Think about this for half a second. What sort of government department wants to make more work for itself?

04. Traffic police have a quota to fill so they just go out and book people for the hell of it

Yes, it feels like that sometimes, but ask yourself this - how often have you been booked when you weren't actually doing something wrong? Has a policeman pulled you over and totally made up a story about you speeding or talking on your phone? Or were you actually, and however unfairly, caught breaking the law?

Speed cameras, of course, are another thing entirely, and we're not willing to refute the story going around that they might be a revenue-raising tool and not just a road-safety one.

05. Driving with your interior lights on is illegal

We're going to put this one in the large file called Dad Myths. There doesn't seem to be a fine on the books for doing it, and the whole idea of "map lights" is that someone in the passenger seat might need to use them while you're driving, although less so in the sat nav era.

The main interior light is also handy for finding out just how far your son or daughter has stuck that jelly bean up their nose so you know whether you need to pull over. But the fact is, it's very annoying to the driver to operate a vehicle at night while they're on, which is why just about every Dad, ever, has said at some stage or other "Turn those bloody lights off, it's illegal you know!"

While a specific fine isn't listed on the RTA's informative list of things you can be booked for, we reckon a police officer with initiative could still find some way to slap you for it, because the fact is it does create unnecessary and unsafe reflection on the windscreen, and driving with interior lights on is thus best kept to a minimum.

06. Driving with thongs on/bare feet is illegal

Driving with thongs on is slightly bogan, possibly, but if it was a crime then the fines handed out in Australia each summer would exceed even the revenue from speeding.

It's not illegal to drive in thongs, but it's not very practical, either, and many experts would advise you to kick them off and drive bare foot instead (the same goes for high heels, which can be genuinely dangerous if they get caught up in carpet or floor mats, and embarrassing if you’re a man).

Driving with nothing on your feet actually gives you a better feel for the pedals and is also completely fine, legally.

07. Red cars are faster (and thus more expensive to insure)

Yes, Ferraris are red, and so are many other sports cars. But they also come in black and blue, and they're not any slower. This myth is so stupid it barely needs busting, but in case you've been wondering; it's a load of garbage.

08. Talking on the phone, hands-free, is much safer than holding it to your ear

It might be more legal in Australia, as long as the phone is held in an appropriate cradle (balancing it on your lap and using the speaker phone is still illegal, just so you know), but it's a myth that it's safer.

Several studies have shown that talking on a phone, even via Bluetooth, is still a distraction, with some even finding it's more dangerous than talking to a passenger, or even driving intoxicated.

Dr Graham Hole, a psychology lecturer, at the University of Sussex, explains: "A popular misconception is that using a mobile phone while driving is safe as long as the driver uses a hands-free phone. Our research shows this is not the case.

"Hands-free can be equally distracting because conversations cause the driver to visually imagine what they're talking about. This visual imagery competes for processing resources with what the driver sees in front of them on the road.”

Editor's Note: This post was originally published in October 2016 and has been updated.