9 top tips for driving in Britain

If you are used to driving on the right, driving on the left is less daunting than you might imagine. Driving in Britain will open up a whole new series of possibilities as you will be able to explore off the beaten track and not have to rely on public transportation to discover the best of what the country has to offer.

Thousands of visitors each year enjoy driving in Britain happily and safely. Follow our driving tips to make sure you are ready to navigate Britain’s roads.

1. Watch your speed

Car on a road driving past Loch Lomond, Scottish Highlands, mountain range on horizon

All speed limits in the UK are in mph not km/h. The national speed limit for cars and motorcycles is 70 mph (110 km/h). If you’re towing a trailer or caravan, the speed limit is reduced to 60 mph (95km/h). This also applies to vehicles over 3.05 tonnes. Remember that all speed limits represent the maximum speed that you should travel at, and that certain road conditions may mean it is not safe to travel at those speeds – particularly in heavy rain, snow or fog.

2. Don’t use your phone

There are strict laws in the UK when it comes to using your phone while driving. You must not have your phone in your hands when you are driving, even if you are stationary in traffic or at a stop light.

You can use hands-free systems as long as you don’t have your phone in your hands while using it. If you are deemed to be distracted while using hands-free while driving, you can still be prosecuted.

3. Don’t drink and drive

There are strict laws regarding driving while under the influence of alcohol in the UK. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland this limit is 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath. In Scotland, the limit is only 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath.

Alcohol affects people differently so it might be best not to drink any alcohol at all if you’re going to drive.

4. Remember to pay for tolls

Woman sitting in front of vintage car parked on rural road in Scotland.

In Britain, it is compulsory for all vehicles to have a minimum of third party insurance. This means that if you are in an accident, your insurance will cover any damage you cause.

Take out comprehensive motor insurance before you start driving for a higher level of cover. If you are in an accident, this type of insurance will cover any costs that you may incur such as damage to your vehicle. Guidance on vehicle insurance can be found on the official government website.

5. Make sure you have vehicle insurance

In Britain, it is compulsory for all vehicles to have a minimum of third party insurance. This means that if you are in an accident, your insurance will cover any damage you cause.

Take out comprehensive motor insurance before you start driving if you are in an accident this type of insurance will cover any costs that you may incur such as damage to your vehicle.

6. Know how to navigate a roundabout

Roundabouts are extremely common in Britain, so it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with them before you start driving, so you don’t get caught out when you come to one.

Traffic always flows in a clockwise direction around roundabouts. You always give way to the traffic approaching from the right, unless you are directed to do otherwise by signs, road markings or traffic lights. Make sure you pay attention to road markings as well, so you are in the correct lane for your exit. The Highway Code has further information on roundabouts.

7. Stop if you have an accident

Vintage camper van driving along a country road in North Wales.

If you have an accident while driving in Britain, you must stop if there is damage to another vehicle, or if an animal or a person is injured. You must stay at the scene of the accident for a reasonable amount of time as well. If anyone with reasonable grounds to do so requests your personal details such as name, address or insurance details, you must provide them.

8. Remember to put your helmet on

All riders and passengers of motorcycles, scooters or mopeds must wear a safety helmet when driving in Britain.

Your helmet must be of an approved design and must be manufactured to a standard similar to the British Standards. If you’re unsure if your helmet meets these standards, more information can be found on the government website.

9. Always buckle up

In Britain wearing seatbelts in a vehicle is mandatory. Seatbelts must be worn at all times by every person in the car where a seatbelt is fitted; this includes both front and rear passengers. Only one person must sit in a seat where a seatbelt is fitted and sharing a seatbelt is not allowed.

Children travelling in cars in the UK must use the appropriate child seat or restraint. This applies to children until they are at least 135cm tall or until they reach their 12th birthday, whichever comes first.

27 Mar 2020(last updated)