Tourist Information UK

Driving in the UK

Driving laws in the UK are strictly upheld. There are over 30 million cars in the UK driving on some of the most congested roads in Europe and safety is taken seriously. Failure to adhere to these laws can result in an on the spot fine, court or prison.

The basic laws of driving in the UK are as follows:

  1. You must have a valid driving licence that covers the type of vehicle that you are driving.

  2. You must have appropriate insurance for the vehicle and it must have valid road tax.

  3. You must drive on the left hand side of the road and overtake on the right.

  4. You must wear a seat belt where one is fitted.

  5. You cannot use your mobile phone while driving.

  6. If you are riding a motorcycle or moped you must wear a crash helmet.

  7. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is not allowed.

  8. You must observe the speed limits which can be 20, 30 or 40mph in built up areas. The speed limit on motorways is 70mph and all other roads have a limit of 60mph or 50mph.

  9. The minimum age at which you can drive a car or motorcycle is 17 years old.

The rules and laws of driving in the UK are printed in a booklet called the Highway code. You can purchase one of these from a high street book store or online at online at

The highway code can also be accessed on the internet.

Driving in the UK is fairly straightforward unless you have never been on a roundabout. A roundabout is a circular junction where all drivers give way to traffic on their right. There are online tutorials on how to use roundabouts such as

Everyone in the UK drives on the left hand side of the road. The roads have names beginning with a letter, followed by 1-3 numbers, for example 'A34'. The classification of a road does not always relate to its width or quality of surface.

A Roads

An A road with one number after it (A1) is a main trunk road. Supplementary A roads can have 2 to 3 numbers after the letter and these routes are slightly less important.

B Roads

These are local routes which carry less traffic than an A road.

C, D and U Roads

These are roads and lanes which carry less traffic than a B road.


A motorway is a high capacity road with a minimum of two lanes in either direction. The M25 around London has up to six lanes in certain areas. A motorway is prefixed with an 'M' and the signs are blue. The speed limit on a dual carriageway or motorway is 70mph unless speed restriction signs say otherwise. Variable speed limits and traffic information are shown on large screens either over the road or to its left.

On a motorway carriage there are the main lanes (either 2 or 3). On the left of these lanes is a lane called the hard shoulder which is to be used for emergencies such as breakdowns. The edge of the motorway and the hard shoulder is marked by a solid white lane (yellow in Ireland). Some motorways use this lane during busy periods but this will be displayed on electronic signs. A central reservation with a barrier separates one carriageway from the other.

The lane on the left, next to the hard shoulder is used for slow and steady traffic with the other two lanes being used for overtaking. Motorists are expected to use the nearside most lane that is cleared. Motorists tend to get frustrated with drivers who stay in a faster lane but are not overtaking.

Seatbelt laws

You must wear a seat belt where one is fitted, including the back seats. There are very few exceptions.

All children must be restrained in a car. Children under 135cms in height must use an appropriate restraint such as a baby car seat/booster seat.

A child may use an adult seat belt when they reach 135cms or the age of 12.

Mobile phones

It is against the law to use a hand held mobile phone while driving a car. If you are stopped by the police for this reason then you can expect to pay a fine. Most drivers in the UK now use hands free devices in their cars to avoid this.