Visiting the UK – Rules of the Road…

rules of the road
rules of the road

….If you’re hiring a car on your visit to the UK, make sure you are familiar with the rules of the road. Here we have detailed the main points you need to know:

Rules of the Road

Standard EU driving regulations apply to driving in the UK but it doesn’t suffer many of the extras needed for driving on the continent. This means you don’t need hi-vis jackets, spare bulb kits, warning triangles etc.

Seat Belt Laws

It is mandatory to for all passengers to wear seatbelts in the front seat and back seats. At one time it was the driver who was responsible but passengers over 16 are now responsible and can be fined if not wearing a belt.

Drinking and Driving

The alcohol limit is 80mg per 100ml of blood. If you are convicted of driving or attempting to drive whilst above the legal limit, the maximum penalty is six months in prison plus a £5,000 fine and a driving ban for at least one year.


You need your passport and driving licence to hire a car. Technically you don’t have to carry any documentation with you in the UK but if you are stopped by the police they will ask for your licence. If you don’t have it, you’ll be asked to present your full vehicle and driving documents to a local police station for checking.

Speed Limits

30 miles per hour in built up areas

60 miles per hour on single carriageways

70 miles per hour on dual carriageways and motorways.

Speed cameras are very frequent but there are signs to warn you of their presence.

You will find that around schools and hospitals, speed limits can drop to 15, 10 or in some cases, 5 mph. Watch out for the signs.

Minimum Driving Age

The minimum driving age is 17. Most hire car companies require you to be over 25 years of age with some driving experience. Some will allow you to drive below that age but will charge a premium for doing so.

On the Spot Fines

UK police and traffic police issue tickets to drivers committing driving offences. These must then be paid within 28 days although some tickets such as parking tickets have a discount if paid sooner. The tickets can be paid by debit or credit card or cheque.

Child Safety Rules

UK child safety laws are stringent and follow EU guidelines. There are no restrictions on where a child can sit in a car as long as they are properly secured in an appropriate, approved child seat. These can be forward or rear facing but must have airbags deactivated before use.


A minimum of third party insurance is compulsory but increasingly drivers are driving uninsured because of the high cost of insurance.

Speed Cameras

Speed cameras, both fixed and mobile, are prevalent in the UK. After a spell when many fixed cameras were decommissioned because of the cost of upkeep, most of them are now operational again. Fixed cameras will send a ticket to the address the car is registered to, whilst mobile traps, including those in unmarked police cars, will give you a ticket on the spot.

Using Mobile Phones when driving

UK police are very hot on stopping and fining drivers using mobile phones without a hands-free kit. They’ve even been known to ask for your phone to see if you made or answered a call whilst driving.


If there are broken yellow lines or no lines at all you can park on the side of the road without restriction. A solid yellow line means waiting but no parking. A double yellow line means no stopping or parking.

What to do in an emergency

You should stop and put on your hazard warning lights to warn other drivers. If the accident is serious, phone the emergency services on 999. Make sure uninjured drivers move to safety, but do not move injured drivers. On motorways keep away from the hard shoulder and the central reservation if possible. There are orange emergency telephones located at short intervals on motorways if needed. Share insurance details with any other drivers involved. If the accident is minor and with no injuries, the police need not be involved.

Traffic Lights

Traffic lights in the UK follow the Vienna Convention meaning they are easily understood. The only anomaly is at pedestrian crossings where flashing amber means you can consider moving if the crossing is clear.

So, now that you are armed with the “rules of the road”, you can go off and enjoy your trip to the UK safe in the knowledge you are driving safely.


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