December 18, 2021

Driving in the UK Know these things

First of all, welcome to the UK! Please accept our apologies for the dreadful weather, and we hope you will enjoy your stay.

If you are flying in from the United States, you will most likely arrive at Heathrow or Gatwick airports in London.

Driving in the UK: 6 Things You Need to Know: eAskme
Driving in the UK: 6 Things You Need to Know: eAskme

Don't even think about hiring a car if you stay in central London.

Traffic is an absolute nightmare, parking is expensive, and a congestion charge of £11.50 per day.

The driving experience itself isn't the best either.

We recommend you stick to public transportation.

However, if you want to see more of the UK, especially the more remote areas, then a car would be the most practical mode of transportation.

The British drive on the "wrong side" of the road for most foreigners.

Here people drive in the left lane, and the driver sits on the right side of the car.

It will take you a bit of time to get used to this, so make sure you don't let your guard down the first two or three days.

There's a learning curve, and most international tourist accidents occur in this interval.

You can also practice online before your trip. It will give you a chance to get a feel for it, and there are some theory tests to make sure you understand the rules.

If you are traveling from the United States or Canada, keep in mind that most cars in the UK are manual transmissions (stick shift).

If you want to hire a car, you'll need to specify you want automatic, or you'll get manual by default.

Driving Requirements:

You can drive in the UK for up to 12 months without a UK license if you hold a valid driver's license from your native country.

The legal driving age here is 17.

You can start driving at 16, but only with a provisional license and a licensed driver in the passenger seat.

If you want to drive in the UK as a tourist, you must have a full license and be 17 years old.

The minimum age to hire a car varies between car rental companies.

While some accept customers as young as 17, most only rent to drivers 21 years or older and charge drivers under 25 an additional fee.

You will need a valid driver's license – and an international driving permit is recommended but not required, a passport or government-issued identification card, insurance, insurance certificate, and a European accident statement that you can get from your car insurance provider.

Basic Rules:

As is the case in any country, the UK has some basic driving rules that must be followed:

  • Comply with all speed limits and road signs;
  • Don't get behind the wheel if your blood alcohol level exceeds the legal limit;
  • Everyone in the car is required to wear a seat belt, though there are some exceptions to this rule;
  • Stop at all STOP signs and red traffic lights;
  • Follow the instruction given to you by police officers;
  • Give way to emergency vehicles with sirens or flashing lights.

Measurement System:

For driving-related measurements, the United Kingdom generally uses imperial units.

Longer distances are expressed in miles and shorter distances in yards. A yard is the equivalent of three feet.

A mile has 1760 yards.  Speed limits are in miles per hour, and cars also indicate speed in mph.

Even though car fuel economy ratings are always displayed in miles per gallon, fuel is purchased in liters using the metric system.

We know it doesn't make sense, but that's the way things are here.

Road Types:

There are different roads in the UK, marked through a lettering system.

You'll notice that each road has a litter and a number. The letter shows the type of road.

M stands for motorway – the largest and fastest (for the most part) type of road.

M roads can have up to four lanes of traffic in each direction, although three lanes are the most typical configuration, and sometimes they only have two lanes.

The speed limit on motorways is 70 mph. 

Motorways are off-limits to learner drivers and some types of vehicles, as well as pedestrians.

They have no traffic lights or roundabouts, and drivers use on and off slipways.

The signs are always white text on a blue background.

  • "A" roads are typically considered the main roads in the United Kingdom, and their speed limits are set at 60 miles per hour unless otherwise noted. Some sections of A roads will be dual carriageways with a 70 mph speed limit.A road can have a single track, but that rarely happens in remote areas.
  • "B" roads are smaller and often connect "A" roads. They can still handle a fair amount of traffic, but they're shorter.
  • "C," "D," and other letters indicate even smaller roads, usually in rural areas. In less rural areas, they tend to cover shorter distances.

Speed Limit:

Speed limits differ based on the road you're on.

There are a lot of circular signs that indicate the speed limit at regular intervals.

You'll see a number representing the speed limit in mph with a red circle around it.

Suppose you see a black diagonal line on the circle.

In that case, it means that the previously imposed speed limit is no longer valid from this point on, and you can go back to the default limits of 70 mph on M roads or dual carriageway sections of A roads and 60 mph on normal roads.

You'll often see locals going above 70 mph.

Don't follow their example, thinking that if they're locals, they know better.

Penalties for exceeding the speed limit can be severe, especially if it results in an accident.

Most of the other roads in the UK have a speed limit of 60 mph. The speed limit is usually 30 mph unless otherwise indicated in populated areas.

It's also worth noting that speed limits in the UK differ based on the sort of vehicle you're driving and whether or not you're towing anything.

Seat Belts:

Everyone in the car must have a seat belt and wear it.

Suppose your car has three seat belts in the back seat.

That means you can't have four people on the back seat simultaneously because one won't have a seat belt to wear.

The driver is responsible for ensuring that everyone in the vehicle is wearing a seat belt, and if they break the rules, they can get a hefty fine.

However, seat belt use is subject to some important exceptions.

For example, when you're reversing your car, you may remove your seat belt so you can move and see where you're going, but you have to put it back right after if you're going to continue driving.

Another exception is for medical reasons.

Then you need a certificate that you keep with you in the car.

You also don't have to wear a seat belt if you drive a classic car that did not originally have seat belts, but then you can use that car to carry children under the age of three, and older children are only allowed to ride in the back seats.

Lastly, you may see taxi drivers not wearing a seat belt while driving.

They're allowed to drive without a seat belt, but passengers still have to wear seat belts.

If you still have any question, feel free to ask me via comments.

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