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Driving in Great Britain

Advice for drivers and riders visiting Britain

You may use your national driving licence only if you have reached the minimum age to drive a vehicle in the United Kingdom.

This means that you must be 17 years or over to ride a motorcycle with a cylinder capacity not exceeding 125cc, or power not exceeding 11kW, 19 years or over to ride a motorcycle not exceeding 35kk, and 21 years or older to ride a motorcycle unlimited in size/power.

You must be 17 years old or more to drive a temporarily imported car - a provisional (learner’s) driving licence issued abroad is not valid for use in the United Kingdom.

Motor insurance

It is prohibited to drive an imported vehicle in the United Kingdom without adequate motor insurance. If the importer does not hold an insurance certificate valid for the United Kingdom, arrangements should be made prior to travel.

Minimum third-party insurance, including trailers.


Unleaded 95 octane petrol is sold as 'premium unleaded' and unleaded 97-octane petrol as 'super unleaded'. All UK petrol and diesel contains 10ppm or less Sulphur.

Leaded '4-star' petrol and lead replacement petrol (LRP) are no longer available. Drivers of older cars designed to use leaded petrol are advised to use lead-replacement additives available widely in filling stations and accessory stores.

Fuel prices vary according to the region, fuel brand and type of outlet.

Liquefied Petroleum Gas

There are approximately 1,300 filling stations which sell LPG.

If you are visiting the UK please be aware that UK filling stations use a bayonet type LPG pump attachment that requires an adaptor for use with other European LPG vehicle connectors.  UK filling stations do not generally have adaptors available so you should make sure that you have a suitable adaptor before travelling.

European to UK LPG adaptors should be available from: Autogas 2000 Ltd and Gasure.UK

Speed limits

Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers:

  • in built up areas: up to 30 mph (48 km/h) unless otherwise indicated
  • outside built up areas: 60 mph (96 km/h)
  • motorways and dual-carriageways up to 70 mph (112 km/h)

Motor caravans with an unladen weight exceeding 3.5t or motor vehicles adapted to carry more than eight passengers are banned from the outside lane of a motorway with three or more lanes.

A car towing a caravan or trailer is not permitted to use the outside lane of a motorway with three or more lanes and is restricted to 50 mph on single carriageway roads outside built-up areas and 60mph on dual carriageways and motorways.

Seat belts

Seat belts must be worn in the front and rear of vehicles, if fitted.

Passengers/children in cars:

Children under three years must use a child restraint appropriate for their age/weight in any vehicle (including vans and other goods vehicles). The only exception is that a child under three may travel unrestrained in the rear of a taxi if the right child restraint is not available.

Rear-facing baby seats must not be used in a seat protected by a frontal air-bag unless the air-bag has been deactivated.

Children aged between 3 years and 11 years and under 135cms in height (approx 4ft 5ins) must use an appropriate child restraint at all times when travelling in the front seat and must use the correct child restraint in the rear where adult seatbelts are fitted.

In a few limited circumstances a child aged between 3 years and 11 years and under 135cms in height may use an adult seat belt in the rear:

  • in a taxi, if the correct child restraint is not available
  • for a short and occasional trip and the correct child restraint is not available
  • where two occupied child restraints in the rear prevent the use of a third

The driver is responsible for compliance with this law for children under 14 years with the fine varying between £30 and £500.

  • You must use sidelights between sunset and sunrise.
  • You must use headlights at night (between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise) except on a road with lit streetlights.
  • You should use dipped headlights at night in built-up areas unless the road is well lit, and use headlights at night on lit motorways and roads with a speed limit in excess of 30 mph.
  • You must use headlights when visibility is seriously reduced, generally to less than 100m.
  • You may use front and rear fog lights when visibility is reduced but must switch them off when visibility improves.
Use of lights

You must not use any lights in a way which would dazzle or cause discomfort to other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

If you are driving a left-hand drive vehicle you should ensure that, if used, the headlights are adjusted for driving on the left, otherwise you risk being stopped by the police and subsequently fined up to £1,000.


Riders of motorcycles, scooters and mopeds must wear a safety helmet of an approved design. This also applies to passengers, except those in sidecars. The helmet must be manufactured to a standard similar to the British Standard.

Use of headlights during the day is recommended.

Drinking and driving

The maximum permitted level of alcohol in the blood is 0.08 per cent.

From 5 December 2014 a lower limit of 0.05 per cent will apply in Scotland.

The police can ask a driver suspected of having committed an offence to undergo a breath test.  Penalty up to £5,000 and/or 6 months’ imprisonment and 12 months withdrawal of driving licence if first time.

The police may also carry out tests to detect a driver who may be under the influence of narcotics.

A portable saliva test has been approved from 2 March 2015 and a positive reading for several drugs will result in prosecution.  Prosecution will no longer rely on impairment testing.

Some psychotropic medications may be included – drivers must enquire as to the acceptable safe dosage for driving and they must carry a prescription on board their vehicles.


Drivers without a satisfactory UK address who commit traffic offences will have to pay a financial penalty deposit equal to the amount of the fixed penalty or £300 as a deposit in respect of a potential court fine.  The deposit has to be paid on the spot. 

Those who can provide a satisfactory UK address will be issued with a fixed penalty which has to be paid within 28 working days.

The Police and examiners from the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency can collect on-the-spot payments.

Vehicles illegally parked are liable to a fine and may also be wheel-clamped or removed.


Other rules/requirements in Great Britain

Drive on the left, overtake on the right.

It is recommended, but not compulsory, that you carry a warning triangle, first-aid kit, fire extinguisher and a reflective jacket to wear in the event of a breakdown.  You must not use a warning triangle if you breakdown on a motorway. 

It is an offence to use a hand-held phone or similar device when driving.

You must not use the horn when the vehicle is stationary, except at times of danger due to another vehicle in movement, or as an anti-theft device. Use of the horn is prohibited in built-up areas from 2330 to 0700 hours.

At some intersections called ‘box junctions’, criss-cross yellow lines are painted on the roadway.  Traffic at these junctions must not enter ‘the box’ (i.e. the area of yellow lines) unless the exit road or lane is clear.

Tolls are payable when using certain motorway sections and bridges.

London congestion charge

A toll is payable when driving or parking in central London on weekdays (Monday to Friday excluding public holidays) between 0700 and 1800 hours.

Entrance to the congestion charge zone is indicated by the letter C in white on a red background.  At present the standard charge for most vehicles is £10.00 if purchased on or before the date of travel.

Dartford Crossing

A toll is also payable between 06:00 and 22:00 on the Dartford river crossing to the East of London where the M25 crosses the river Thames. Pay online, by phone or at payzone retail outlets in advance or by midnight the day after crossing.

The London Low Emission Zone

The Low Emission Zone operates 24hrs a day, 365 days a year and is enforced by cameras.  Daily charges are very high - between £100 and £200 depending on vehicle type - so it is very important that you find out if you have a vehicle that is affected by the scheme - as well as applying to larger commercial vehicles, the charge applies to some vehicles that might be owned and operated privately - vans, minibuses, horseboxes, motorhomes/motorcaravans, utility vehicles and pick-ups depending on size and emissions standard.

Non-GB registered vehicles that meet the required LEZ standards will need to register with the scheme in advance.

(19 May 2015)