Tips for Visitors Driving in the UK

Driving in the UK can seem a little strange at first to visitors who aren't that familiar with UK roads. Not to worry, as we've got some great tips here to help visitors get around.

For most foreign visitors, we British are considered to drive on the wrong side of the road, this being the left-hand lane and it can take some time for visitors to process this if they are unfamiliar. It’s important that visitors take extra care when they are driving on UK roads and take extra precautions when it comes to pedestrian safety, roundabouts and public transport. You’re not alone if you’re worried about driving in the UK, but these driving tips can help you get behind the wheel without feeling too wobbly.

Here are our top tips for anyone visiting the UK:

1. Speed limits

In the UK, speed limits vary depending on the road on which you’re driving on. Indicated by black numerals on a circular sign with a red border, you find it hard to miss a speed limit sign, meaning that you should always be obeying the law. The only speed limit sign, which does not have the red border is the National Speed Limit, which is indicated by a black diagonal stripe and is 60mph on normal roads and 70mp on dual carriageways or motorways. When you come across a new speed limit, this means that any previous speed limit sign has ended and you should now follow the new speed limit. You should also be aware of the 30mph speed limit within built-up areas, which drops to 20mph in cases where there are schools and housing estates nearby. Try your best to abide by the speed limit as if not you could incur a hefty fine as well as penalty points on your licence.

2. Driving on the motorway

When driving on the motorway, you must not by any means travel faster than 70mph or the maximum limit permitted for your vehicle. Here in the UK, motorists pass on the right-hand side and if you decide to overtake a number of vehicles that are moving slower than you, you may find that it may be safer for you to remain in the centre or outer lanes until you have safely passed. Once you have passed or if you find that you are delaying the traffic behind you, try to safely return to the left-hand lane. You must not drive on the hard shoulder, which you can find on the left, as this is intended for breakdowns and access for emergency services, unless you are directed to do so by signs.

3. Swings and roundabouts

Roundabouts are very common in the UK and using them is quite simple once you get your head around it. When travelling on UK roundabouts you should give way to the traffic approaching you from your right, before you turn left to exit the roundabout. On approach to the roundabout, it’s important to know where you’ll be exiting so that you have plenty of time to choose the correct lane and signal correctly. You may find that not everybody signals when exiting a roundabout or that they do not signal correctly so it’s best to keep an eye out and be aware of what others are doing around you.

4. Pedestrians and crossings

In the UK there are numerous different types of pedestrian crossings, which you need to be aware of when you’re driving and these are; Zebra, Puffin and Pelican crossings. Zebra crossings consist of large black and white stripes on the road, as well as flashing yellow beacons on either side of the road. When approaching a Zebra crossing, you should prepare yourself to stop if you suspect that pedestrians are about to cross. Both Puffin and Pelican crossings are quite similar to each other in that they don’t have stripes on the road, as they are controlled by traffic lights.

When a pedestrian wishes to cross at either of these crossings they do so by pushing a button at the side of the road to trigger the traffic light to turn red, which instructs the traffic to stop and allows pedestrians to cross as the little green man is then activated. You must stop at these crossings when the light is on red or if there is a pedestrian on the crossing and the light is either amber or flashing amber.

5. Parking

If you’re travelling in a busy town or city centre then it can prove to be quite challenging to find a parking space. With various different parking options available such as, multi-storey, on-street metre parking and car parks, it’s important to always read any notices that may be displayed before you park your car anywhere as some areas can be quite strict on who they provide parking for. For example, you may find that an area only offers to park for residents or for permit holders only and if you park there you can be fined. With regards to yellow lines, if there are two solid yellow lines by the side of the road, known as double yellow lines, then you’re not permitted to park there for any reason. However, if you see a single yellow line, this means that you can park there and wait for a short period of time, which is usually indicated by a sign that will outline the restrictions.

6. Light it up

When you’re driving you must ensure that all your vehicle’s sidelights and registration plate lights are lit half an hour before sunrise and half an hour after sunset and you must ensure that you use your headlights at night as this can be very hazardous. Headlights are extremely important and should be used when your visibility is seriously reduced. In dull daytime weather, you can also use your dipped headlights to help ensure that you can be seen. If you’re travelling in the fog, then you also have your front and rear fog lights to help you see better if visibility is seriously reduced but do make sure that you switch these off when visibility improves so that you’re not dazzling other drivers.

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