10 top tips for driving in Britain

Driving in Britain will open up a whole new series of possibilities, as you’ll be able to explore off the beaten track and not have to rely on public transport to discover the best of what the country has to offer.

Every year, thousands of visitors enjoy the delights of a road trip round Britain. And, if you’re used to driving on the right, you might find driving on the left is less daunting than you might imagine. 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 Britain are in miles per hour not km/h, and the limits change depending on the kind of vehicle, and area, you are driving in. For example, the national speed limit for cars and motorcycles is 70 mph (112 km/h) on a motorway or dual carriageway. If you’re towing a trailer or caravan however, the speed limit is reduced to 60 mph (96km/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. You can find additional information on national speed limits for different vehicles and road types on the government website.

2. Don’t use your phone

There are strict laws in Britain 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 when 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 Britain. In Scotland, the limit is 22 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath, everywhere else it’s 35 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.

Alcohol affects people differently, so it’s 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.

If you’re driving in Britain, it’s more than likely that you will come across a toll road. Toll roads are roads or areas that you have to pay to use. The busiest tolls are the London Congestion Zone and the Dartford River Crossing on the M25.

Not all toll roads accept cash. For example, you have to pay the Congestion Charge online. The same applies to the Dartford Crossing. It’s important to plan your trip beforehand to see if you’ll need to use any toll roads and how you can pay for them, to ensure your journey is easy and hassle free.

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 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.

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 property, another vehicle, or if an animal or a person is injured, regardless of the severity of the collision. If anyone with reasonable grounds to do so requests your personal details such as name, address or insurance details, you must provide them. You can find further information on the government website.

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 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.

10. Don’t forget to charge your car!

If you’re hiring an electric vehicle to use while in Britain, there’s an extensive network of more than 20,000 charging points available, with more being added each year. Some are free to use, while others require payment via a contactless credit or debit card.

You can download the Zap Map application to your phone to find your nearest charging point. Many can be found in car parks and in service stations on the main road network.

Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.

25 Aug 2021(last updated)

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