Driving in the UK can be a daunting experience, both for novice drivers and overseas travelers who are used to driving in the other lane. But regardless of your previous driving experience (or lack thereof), there’s no changing the fact that driving your own vehicle is the best way to travel around places. And this definitely holds true for citizens driving in the United Kingdom.
If you’re of age and based in England, you’re doing yourself a huge favor by ditching public transportation and driving your own private automobile vehicle in this territory.
That said, a fair warning: driving and controlling a vehicle is a large responsibility. You’ll need to first acquire the proper accreditation and skillset to legally navigate this nation’s network of roads.
Keen to learn more about what driving in the UK entails? Read on for some tips and tricks on how to drive through the English territory with ease.
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You need a driver’s license
Every country enforces its own standard of road safety, and the UK is no different as it requires all drivers to possess driving licenses of some form.
In the UK, novice driving students need to obtain a provisional license before driving the public roads. With it, drivers can drive on any UK road except motorways.
The only caveat is they must drive under the supervision of a driving instructor or someone who has possessed ownership of a full driver’s license for at least three years.
The provisional license is different from the standard driver’s license, as the latter gives drivers access to motorways and the freedom to drive with unguarded supervision.
To apply for a provisional driver’s license, you’ll need to pass some requirements beforehand. This includes an ID, a health certificate, and a National Insurance number.
Your provisional license will be valid for 10 years, but you have two years to take the practical exam after passing the theory test for it to be validated. If you fail to take it within that time, you’ll have to retake it.
If you pass the exam, you can apply for an actual driver’s license. These can last for up to 10 years before you have to renew them.
You should always drive on the left lane
The driving conventions of the UK differ vastly from most other countries, stemming primarily from their norm of left-side driving.
In fact, over two-thirds of all countries in the world drive on the right side, including big countries like the United States and China. Hence, if you’re from overseas, you’ll have to do some unlearning and relearning if you’re driving down UK roads.
For instance, in multi-lane roads, the leftmost lane is typically for regular driving or slower vehicles. The right lanes, on the other hand, are primarily reserved for overtaking. Once you’ve safely overtaken a vehicle, it’s standard practice to return to the leftmost lane.
It’s totally normal to have some worries about making driving mistakes, especially for newcomers. Fortunately, you don’t have to go through the driving process on your own.
There are many ways you can polish your skills, such as taking driving lessons with EzLicence or other local driving school services. With these institutions, you can safely develop your skills and become a safer and smarter driver.
Observe speed limits
A roundabout is a common feature in UK roads, and it can be quite complicated to navigate for beginner drivers.
The first rule you should keep in mind is to give way to the traffic on the roundabout. And depending on where your final approach is, you should drive on the lane that corresponds to the approach. You may look at this roundabout appendix for reference.
Bear in mind that driving in the roundabout is driving in clockwise form. If you’re unsure
of what lane you should be in, then turn on your signal and give the driver behind you a clue of where you’re heading. It’s typically fine to take the shortest route if there’s no traffic in the roundabout.
During peak hours, stopping in the roundabout when you have the right of way can cause delays and frustration to other drivers, so know when’s the right time to stop.
At the same time, it’s also important to stay in the correct lane to ensure a steady flow of traffic, so be sure to memorise and drill what lane to approach into your head before driving.
Don’t dismiss car safety procedures
Driving a car, regardless of where you are, requires you to follow some rules and basic procedures. This is to ensure your safety and the safety of others on the road.
Here are some things you have to bear in mind when driving:
- Always wear your seatbelt
- Refrain from using your cell phone when driving
- Avoid drinking and driving
- Be aware of speed limits and stick to them
- Avoid overtaking in one-lane areas
- Use your indicators
- Respect road signs and pedestrian crossings
There are many more rules you need to adhere to to be a safe and respectable driver in the United Kingdom. Above all, use your common sense and prioritise safety over speed.
Learn how to maintain your vehicle
While there’s no single prevailing rule for owning a car, there are ways you can become a responsible car owner. And one is to learn how to take care of the vehicle you’re using.
While most student drivers drive instructor cars, you’ll likely eventually drive a private car at some point. And once that time approaches, you should know how to take care of your car as if it’s your own child.
Some basic maintenance tasks you should familiarise yourself with include:
- Changing your oil
- Maintaining tyre pressure
- Inspecting brakes
- Checking fluid levels
- Checking battery state
- Cleaning exterior and interior
Doing these tasks may be time-consuming, but they’re an integral part of being a car owner. Plus, they also improve the longevity of your car, so you’re doing yourself a favour by keeping your car in good condition.
Know your road signs
Road signs help drivers know what action to take when driving. These signs fall under four main umbrellas:
- Informational signs: Indicates general knowledge about specific sites, such as the border when entering a new city or state.
- Warning signs: Indicates potentially hazardous conditions, such as school zones, road closures, and natural disaster-prone areas.
- Regulatory signs: Laws of the road-type signs, typically including traffic laws, regulations, or standards.
- Guide signs: Helps you know distances and directions to certain locations. Also can indicate route numbers.
There are hundreds of different road signs in the UK, and while it would be splendid if everyone memorized them all, realistically speaking, it’s normal for people to miss a few.
That said, six shapes can give drivers some broad knowledge of what these signs can indicate. Triangles are warning signs, circles are instructions, rectangles are informative signs, diamonds are for trams, pentagons are for sharp turns, and octagons are for stopping.