Driving rules in the UK: the top things you need to know

Driving rules in the UK

This article about driving rules in the UK was published by the Great British Mag content team on 10 August, 2018

Driving in the UK is pretty straight forward. If you pay attention to the road signs and keep an eye out for the occasional kamikaze pedestrian and cyclist, you will be absolutely fine!

The biggest hurdle for any foreigner is getting their heads around the fact that we drive on the left side of the road even though the 65% of countries drive on the right.

Whilst there isn’t a need to drive on the left the reason why Brits do is kind of cool. It goes back hundreds of years when people travelled on the left hand side of the road in order to keep their right hand free in case they had to reach for their sword.

The first thing you need to know before you hit the road is check that your driving license is valid in the UK. The second most important thing to do is make sure you and your passengers buckle up. Wearing an age-specific seat belt is compulsory in the UK. If you or a passenger under the age of 14 is caught without a seat belt you can expect to get up to a £500 fine and three penalty points on your license.  If the passenger is over 14 they are the ones that will get a fine.

How fast can I go?

In cities and towns the maximum speed you can travel at is 30mph. This can go down to 20mph near schools. You can travel at 60mph on a single carriageway, which is a road that is divided in the middle and traffic does in opposite directions, and 70mph on motorways.

If you are caught going over the speed limit you can be fined a minimum of £100 and get three penalty points on your licence. You can be disqualified if you get 12 points over a three year period.

What do the road signs mean?

You can tell what a sign is for by its colour and shape. Warning signs are mostly triangular with red borders. Signs within circles with a red border are mostly prohibitive. Direction signs are mostly rectangular and are distinguished by their background colour; blue for motorway signs, green for primary routes and white for secondary routes.

Warning signs in the UK

Local direction signs often have blue borders with a white background. Signs with brown backgrounds are used to direct motorists to tourist attractions.

On country roads, sharp bends are shown by a sign that typically has a white arrow on a black background, the more arrows the tighter the bend.

All signs are shown in a booklet entitled Know Your Traffic Signs.

How to navigate a roundabout?

Vehicles already on the roundabout, coming from your right have priority over those entering it. You need to wait until you can see a safe opening for you to join the roundabout. If you want to exit the roundabout on the first exit then join the lane on the outside. If you want to exit the roundabout on the 2nd, 3rd or 4th exit then join the inside lane.

Who has priority at a pelican crossings?

Pelican crossings are also referred to as zebra crossings in the UK and the main rule is that the pedestrian has the priority to cross. On approaching you should slow down and be observant to whether some is going to cross. If they are you should stop the car and let them cross before proceeding.

Pelican crossing or zebra crossing in the UK

Near schools you will find that a person with a big stop sign will stand in the middle of the road to help children cross the road safely.

Road etiquette

As with everything us Brits like to be polite and courteous on the road. And that includes waving a thank-you when another driver slows down to let you turn or join traffic ahead of them.

Drivers also make sure they are driving safely around cyclists and it is frowned upon if you driver in the lane intended for bicycles, buses and cabs. And lastly, if you hear the siren of ambulance, police car or fire engine, move out of the way!