Motorbikes and the law: Wheelies and getting your knee down

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Have you ever wondered if it is illegal to pop a wheelie on a public road? Or how about getting your knee down on a twisty B road? MCN has looked into it so you don’t have to and consulted legal expert and MCN Columnist, Andrew Campbell.  


There is no legislation that specifically deals with wheelies. However, Section 2 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 deals with the offence of Dangerous Driving which is often how the police get drivers prosecuted for pulling a wheelie. 

The idea is that if you are not in full control of your vehicle it is inherently dangerous, in the case of a wheelie it leaves the rider with no steering or front brake. It doesn’t matter if you actually damage property or hurt anyone. A wheelie can be prima facie evidence of a lack of due care for the rider’s own safety and that of other road users.

To commit the offence of dangerous driving, you have to drive in a manner which falls below that which would be expected of a competent and careful driver in circumstances in which it would be obvious to such a competent and careful driver that such riding would be dangerous.

The penalties for dangerous driving can be a hefty fine, points, disqualification and even imprisonment. Incidents involving excessive speed or showing off, especially on busy roads or in built-up areas, tend to attract the harsher penalties.

If a wheelie is required to avoid a hazard in the road then, with expert evidence supporting the appropriateness of the wheelie (for safety reasons), it can be a defence to a charge of dangerous driving. These will be very rare occasions.

Getting your knee down

MCN's Dan Sutherland gets his knee down at Silverstone

As with wheelies, there is no specific law mentioning getting you knee down so we need to look again at the Road Traffic Act 1988, this time section 3. This deals with driving without due care and attention (careless) and inconsiderate driving.

If a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle on a road or other public place without due care and attention, or without reasonable consideration for other persons using the road or place, he is guilty of an offence.

With wheelies charges of Dangerous Driving are often pursued which is where the standard of driving fell far below the standard to be expected. With careless or inconsiderate driving the standard of driving need only fall below the expected standard rather than far below it.

Arguably a knee down on the highway could even be Dangerous Driving if you are hanging over the white centre line, knee down, over the speed limit. It is likely to come down the police officer’s judgment and the specific facts at the time including the presence of other vehicles, the speed, the road conditions and so on.

Penalties can include a fine, points, a ban and even imprisonment, for example were someone to be killed as a result of careless driving with aggravating factors.

This article was written by Andrew Campbell, a Solicitor at Bikelawyer Motorcycle Accident Solicitors.

Andrew is MCN Legal Expert and has authored the MCN Law column for more than 10 years.

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