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Hints for Driving in the UK

UK distances and speed limits are in miles per hour. Towns and villages usually have a limit of 30mph; some roads in the towns are 40mph. Single carriageways (undivided road with traffic in both directions) have a national speed limit of 60mph. Dual carriageways (divided road with traffic in both directions) have a national speed limit of 70mph. Motorway limits are usually 70 but vary, especially in construction areas; check the signs. There are speed cameras on a great many of the roads

Road signs are in different colours and mean different things:

  • blue and white—motorway

  • green and white—between larger towns and further destinations

  • black and white—between villages and destinations in between the green and white .

  • You need to know the green and white destinations most of the time even if you are only traveling between black and white because the black and white are not always signposted, especially on bigger highways and some roundabouts.

  • Drivers blink their lights when they want to pass you; they also blink them when they think you are going too slow or are giving you the right of way.

  • Drivers cut back in immediately after they pass you, so slow down when they pass; drivers also pass right in the middle of the line going down the highway when there is oncoming traffic.

  • Roads are not always marked or signs can be confusing or there are changes from the maps. Expect to get lost and allow time for it.

  • Petrol stations are nearly always self serve; most have equipment to wash your windows.
  • Many have snack food shops.

  • Most drivers think they own the road and you don't exist.

  • On the motorways (designated by an ‘M’ and the number), the inside lane is for slow traffic and trucks (trucks are allowed in the other lanes for passing only); the center lane is for faster traffic and passing; the outer lane is for passing only.

  • A motorway always has six lanes, a "dual carriageway" has four lanes or a divider separating lanes.

  • Roads that lead off the motorways by just being a left lane and "slipping" off are called "slipways".

  • It’s best to avoid the M25 around London and the M5/M6 Birmingham, especially during morning and evening rush hours.

  • Motorways have emergency phones with signs that they are coming up. These phones are for breakdowns and other emergencies which are the only times you are allowed to stop on a motorway.

  • English drivers nearly always go over the speed limit. The speed cameras now in proliferation have helped.

  • If you drive after 5 pm in the evening, there can be long traffic line ups and delays around towns, roundabouts, motorways, and even tiny villages.

  • In a larger town there is nearly always a parking lot closer than the first parking lot sign you see.

  • No matter what direction you are heading on a village street you can park on either side of the street heading in either direction. If the street is narrow, you can sometimes park half on the sidewalk—take your cue from other parked cars.

  • There are rules for using the roundabouts:

  • Driver on the right has the right of way when going on to roundabouts.

  • Stay in outside lane if getting off next exit.

  • Go to inner lane if going around the roundabout and move to outside lane before your exit. Watch for traffic from your left when doing this.

  • If you are not sure of your exit stay in the inner lane until you are sure or go off on a minor road exit where you can pull off shortly down the road to figure it out.

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