Are there any special requirements for driving or hiring a car in UK?
Overtaking on the left is illegal. Great Britain is the only set of countries in Europe which marks the speed limits in miles rather than kilometres. Traffic on a roundabout has priority, you will find roundabouts to be much more prevalent in the UK than other parts of the world.
Priority is marked at junctions. If a driver is giving way to you they will often flash their lights to signal that you can go ahead. Give way to any emergency services vehicles such as ambulances and police cars with flashing lights.
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 in the UK is 80mg per 100ml of blood, however in Scotland it is 50mg per 100ml. 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.
Must Have Documents
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.
- 20 miles per hour in city centres / outside schools etc*
- 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.
*20mph zones are increasingly popular throughout the UK in built up areas, particular attention being paid around schools and hospitals and they are often enforced with mobile speed patrols. 20mph zones are determined by local councils
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.
Safety Camera Warning Devices
Safety camera warning devices are legal in the UK but should not be considered a tool to allow you to exceed the speed limit. Limits in the UK are there for a purpose and cameras are usually positioned at accident blackspots.
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.
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.
You should be aware of the following:
There are restricted hours when you are not allowed to drive in bus lanes, look out for the signs.
You are not allowed to use your horn between 11.30pm and 7am in built up areas.
There are no specific towing regulations for drivers in the UK. If towing, simply make sure the attachment is secure and that other drivers know what you are doing.
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.
Parking restrictions are determined by lines on the road, generally these are yellow, red or white. If there are no lines at all you can park on the side of the road without restriction. A solid yellow line means there are restrictions in place & you need to refer to the signs placed at regular intervals along the road to see what these restrictions are (e.g. no parking Mon-Fri 7am-10am, 4pm-6pm) If there are no signs, the general rule is no parking Mon-Sat between 8am and 6pm, Sundays and Bank Holidays have no parking restriction unless otherwise stated.
A double yellow line means no parking or waiting at any time. A single red line means no stopping or parking between certain times (see local signs), double red line means no stopping at any time. Red lines are generally only found in London or other major city centres.
Broken white lines marking parking spaces at the side of the road mean refer to the signs as parking / waiting times may be limited (e.g. Mon-Fri 30mins, no return within 1 hour). Zig-zag white lines mean no parking and are often found outside of schools and crossing points.
Paid parking is often by meter, ticket machine or in multi-storey car parks where you may be issued with a card ticket you have to feed into a machine when you return to your car and then pay the appropriate fee.
Enforcement of parking is done by traffic wardens who will photograph your car as proof you broke the law. You'll get a ticket but you can reduce the fine by paying quickly. If your car still isn't moved after a reasonable period of time it will be clamped or towed away. Fees for unclamping or reclaiming your car can be steep.
Blue Badge parking for the disabled is common in the UK. It allows you to park for free in all municipal car parks for up to two hours. It allows you to park in restricted parking areas for up to two hours as long as you're not causing an obstruction. There are plenty of parking spaces reserved for the disabled closer to where you may want to go.
Motor Way Signs
Motorways have the prefix M
, main arterial roads have the prefix A, and there are smaller B roads too. Brown and white signs mark tourist attractions, while tourist information is marked in blue. Motorway signs are in blue or green whilst urban signs can be in white depending on the importance of the road.
The UK's language differences compared to American or Australian English can be resolved using these words or phrases:
- Petrol – Gasoline
- Clampers – Your car could be clamped and towed if you park illegally.
- Hard Shoulder – Left hand lane of motorway only to be used for stopping in emergencies.
- Services – Motorway rest stops.
- Zebra crossings - Pedestrian crossings
- Excess – Deductible (insurance)
- Gearbox – Transmission
- Boot – Trunk
- Bonnet – Hood
- Bumper – Fender
- Detour – Diversion
- Indicators - Blinkers
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.
There are some toll roads, notably on the M6 motorway. Many bridges have tolls for crossing them. Follow this link for more on toll roads in the UK
Congestion Zone Charge - An £11.50 daily charge to drive in central London between 7am and 6pm on weekdays (does not apply on public holidays).
The emergency services are on 999. This will allow you to be connected to police, ambulance, fire or coastguard.
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.
The average cost of petrol in the UK as at June 2014 is
£1.35 Unleaded (95 octane)
£1.39 Unleaded (98)
You will often find petrol is cheapest at supermarkets. Some discount the price if you buy a certain amount of shopping first.