Guide to Driving In Northern Ireland - Drive Safe in Northern Ireland

Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in Northern Ireland?

Driving in Northern Ireland

Driving Laws

Seat Belt Laws

Wearing a seat belt is mandatory for both drivers and passengers. 

Drinking and Driving

Drinking alcohol and then driving is against the law in Northern Ireland and there are strict limits for drivers. If you are suspected of having consumed alcohol whilst driving, you may be stopped and asked to do a breathalyser test. The legal alcohol limit for drivers in Northern Ireland is:
  • 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath
  • 80 milligrammes of alcohol in 100 millilitres of blood
  • 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine.
The advice is not to drive at all if you have had a drink. 

Must Have Documents

You must have the following on you at all times when driving in Northern Ireland:
  • Full driving licence
  • Car registration documents
  • Car insurance documents

Speed Limits

Speed Limit Type of Road
30mph Built up areas
60mph Single Carriageways
70mph Motorways
20mph Near schools or with a lot of pedestrians
50mph Roads with sharp bends

Minimum Driving Age

The minimum age to drive a vehicle in Northern Ireland is the same as the UK. You must be 17 years of age. If you are wishing to hire a car you need to be at least 21 years of age. 

Safety Camera Warning Devices

It is possible to use a safety camera-warning device in Northern Ireland and they are available to buy from a range of shops, however it will not necessary warn you to every speed camera and therefore they should be used with caution.

On the Spot Fines

On the spot fines do not really exist in Northern Ireland, however it is possible to be pulled over by the police force for offenses such as speeding. A fixed penalty notice can be given plus a £100 fine.

Child Safety Rules

All children up to 135 cms in height or up to 12 years of age, must use a suitable child seat. Any child under the age of 14 must wear a seat belt or be in the correct child restraint.


All drivers in Northern Ireland must be fully insured to drive the vehicle and it is advisable to keep insurance documents on you at all times. 

Rules of the Road

  • All drivers must drive on the left hand side of the road
  • Speed limits are noted in miles per hour
  • There are three main types of road: Motorways, Primary Roads and Non Primary Roads

Towing Regulations

A category B vehicle may have a trailer attached provided the combination of the two does not exceed 3,500kgs MAM. The exeption to this is if a category B licence holder needed to tow a broken down vehicle to remove it from a position of danger or obstruction. 

Speed Cameras

There are several fixed safety cameras in various locations across Northern Ireland in addition to an average speed enforcement camera. The locations of the fixed safety cameras are in Belfast, where 30 or 40 mph speed limits apply. 

Using Mobile Phones when driving

Using a phone whilst driving is against the law in Northern Ireland and if you are caught penalty points and fines can be given. It is possible to use a phone only with a in car hands free set. 


There are numerous parking options in Northern Ireland, including multi storey car parks and on road parking. Many of the roads are metered. The requirement is that you display your parking ticket in the windscreen, failure to do this will result in a fine. 

Motor Way Signs

Road signs are usually very clear and conform largely to European standards. Regulatory and speed signs will usually be a white circle with a red outline and the
writing in the middle in black.


Traffic Lights

Traffic lights operate the same in the UK and Northern Ireland. Passengers are required by law to stop at a red traffic light and may face penalty points or a fine if this is not adhered to. 

Toll Roads

There are currently no toll roads in Northern Ireland. If you were driving from Northern Ireland into the republic of Ireland you could encounter a toll.  


What to do in an emergency

In an emergency, drivers should move away from the car and call the police. It is recommended that you stay at the scene of any accident until the police arrive.

Fuel Costs

Petrol stations are open for the majority of the day in Northern Ireland, usually from 8am to 10pm. However you will find some stations in the larger cities open for 24 hours. 


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Hiring a Car

With our Drive Smart guide you're fully prepared to hire a car in Northern Ireland and stay safe on unfamiliar roads.