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United Kingdom (UK) - Driving

In the United Kingdom drivers use the left side of the road. For drivers who learned to drive on the right side of the road, this can create issues or concerns with regard to the right of way at roundabouts, minor roads joining main roads, and so on. The types of roads you encounter in the United Kingdom include motorways, which have an ‘M’ at the beginning of their name, followed by a number designating the specific highway. There are city streets, rural roads, and two lane roads (known locally as dual carriageways). Some roads will have roundabouts rather than traffic lights. On a roundabout traffic drives clockwise, with traffic to the right given the right of way.

Speed Limits

Speed limit signs clearly mark the number miles per hour to which a driver is limited on a given stretch of road. British speed limits are set by the National Speed Limit Agency. Some areas will have a default speed limit for certain vehicles like lorries driving in built up areas. This limit is usually 30 miles per hour. Motorways typically have a speed of up to 70 miles per hour. Certain roads may have a limit of 20 mph. This usually happens in towns or in areas where faster speeds are inappropriate (e.g. around schools). You may see repeated signs to ensure you are driving at the appropriate limit.

Traffic Lights and Road Markers

Traffic lights are generally found on busy roads in villages, towns, and cities. They are also used for narrow bridges and to control traffic flow. Red means ‘stop’ and amber means ‘proceed with caution’. Once the light has turned green, you may continue driving. After it has turned green, the light goes back to amber and requires you to prepare to stop for the red light. A green arrow gives you the right of way to turn at a junction.

It is important to use the left most lane unless you are passing another vehicle under the Highway Code 268. This keeps the flow of traffic steady.

When you come to a pedestrian crossing it will be clearly marked by the traffic light or a zebra crossing (black and white stripes on the roads), which gives the right of way to a pedestrian.

Road markers are fairly universal although you may see signs without any wording. Yellow is used for caution signs, red for stop signs, and white for speed limits.

Road Quality

Roadwork is an ongoing process in many areas of England, Wales, and Scotland. You may also find construction on the busier streets of Northern Ireland. As with any construction, it is based on road quality and funding availability. GPS, radio stations, and transport websites will give up to date details about road works. It is also possible to call the local council in your area or the area you intend on visiting to find out about road conditions.

Traffic Data

As with construction data, GPS, mobile apps, radio, and local area numbers provide you with details regarding traffic jams, accidents, and other issues. Traffic congestion usually occurs between 7am to 9:30am and 17:00 to 19:00 hours Monday-Friday.

Traffic and Construction Resources

Highways Agency

BBC Travel News

Motoring Offences

Fines apply to a number of issues relating to driving such as speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and driving without seatbelts. In the UK everyone in the car must wear a seatbelt. Children should be in car seats until they reach 135cm or an appropriate age. The penalty point system can take 3 or more points depending on the offence. Speeding is often 3 points, with more serious violations seeing much harsher punitive measures. Speed traps and traffic police exist in the UK, thus it is important to stick to the local speed limits.

Emergency Issues

There can be several different emergency issues that can occur. In the event that you have an emergency or accident you will need to call the authorities, wait for the police to arrive, and follow through with your insurance company.

You are required to carry car safety equipment, which depends on the country you are driving in. Some people carry warning triangles, reflective vests, a spare bulb kit, first aid kits, or fire extinguishers.

Roughly 200,000 people are injured, killed, or disabled due to road accidents each quarter in the United Kingdom, meaning that driving emergencies affect around 800,000 people each year.

Emergency and Accident Reporting

Dial 999 in an emergency, or 112 from a mobile phone

Fuel Costs

Fuel costs are currently an average of 126.70p-145.9p depending on the petrol station, city, and type of petrol you purchase. This is one of the highest fuel rates in the world.

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