General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (103 to 158)

Overview

This section should be read by all drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders. The rules in The Highway Code do not give you the right of way in any circumstance, but they advise you when you should give way to others. Always give way if it can help to avoid an incident.

Signals (103 to 106)

103

Signals warn and inform other road users, including pedestrians (download ‘Signals to other road users’), of your intended actions. You should always

104

You should also

105

You MUST obey signals given by police officers, traffic officers, traffic wardens (download ‘Signals by authorised persons’) and signs used by school crossing patrols.

Laws RTRA sect 28, RTA 1988 sect 35, TMA 2004 sect 6, & FTWO art 3

106

Police stopping procedures. If the police want to stop your vehicle they will, where possible, attract your attention by

You MUST then pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Then switch off your engine.

Law RTA 1988 sect 163

Other stopping procedures (107 to 112)

107

Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency officers have the power to stop vehicles on all roads, including motorways and trunk roads. They will attract your attention by flashing amber lights

It is an offence not to comply with their directions. You MUST obey any signals given (download ‘Signals by authorised persons’).

Laws RTA 1988, sect 67, & PRA 2002, sect 41 & sched 5(8)

108

Traffic officers have powers to stop vehicles on most motorways and some ‘A’ class roads, in England and Wales. If traffic officers in uniform want to stop your vehicle on safety grounds (e.g. an insecure load) they will, where possible, attract your attention by

You MUST then pull over and stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Then switch off your engine. It is an offence not to comply with their directions (see ‘Signals by authorised persons’).

Law RTA1988, sects 35 &163 as amended by TMA 2004, sect 6

109

Traffic light signals and traffic signs. You MUST obey all traffic light signals (download ‘Light signals controlling traffic’) and traffic signs giving orders, including temporary signals & signs (download ‘Traffic signs’). Make sure you know, understand and act on all other traffic and information signs and road markings (download ‘Road markings’ and Vehicle markings’).

Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10, 15, 16, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 36, 38 & 40

110

Flashing headlights. Only flash your headlights to let other road users know that you are there. Do not flash your headlights to convey any other message or intimidate other road users.

111

Never assume that flashing headlights is a signal inviting you to proceed. Use your own judgement and proceed carefully.

112

The horn. Use only while your vehicle is moving and you need to warn other road users of your presence. Never sound your horn aggressively. You MUST NOT use your horn

except when another road user poses a danger.

Law CUR reg 99

Lighting requirements (113 to 116)

113

You MUST

Night (the hours of darkness) is defined as the period between half an hour after sunset and half an hour before sunrise).

Laws RVLR regs 3, 24, & 25, (In Scotland - RTRA 1984 sect 82 (as amended by NRSWA, para 59 of sched 8))

114

You MUST NOT

In stationary queues of traffic, drivers should apply the parking brake and, once the following traffic has stopped, take their foot off the footbrake to deactivate the vehicle brake lights. This will minimise glare to road users behind until the traffic moves again.

Law RVLR reg 27

115

You should also

116

Hazard warning lights. These may be used when your vehicle is stationary, to warn that it is temporarily obstructing traffic. Never use them as an excuse for dangerous or illegal parking. You MUST NOT use hazard warning lights while driving or being towed unless you are on a motorway or unrestricted dual carriageway and you need to warn drivers behind you of a hazard or obstruction ahead. Only use them for long enough to ensure that your warning has been observed.

Law RVLR reg 27

Control of the vehicle (117 to 126)

Braking

117

In normal circumstances. The safest way to brake is to do so early and lightly. Brake more firmly as you begin to stop. Ease the pressure off just before the vehicle comes to rest to avoid a jerky stop.

118

In an emergency. Brake immediately. Try to avoid braking so harshly that you lock your wheels. Locked wheels can lead to loss of control.

119

Skids. Skidding is usually caused by the driver braking, accelerating or steering too harshly or driving too fast for the road conditions. If skidding occurs, remove the cause by releasing the brake pedal fully or easing off the accelerator. Turn the steering wheel in the direction of the skid. For example, if the rear of the vehicle skids to the right, steer immediately to the right to recover.

rule-119-rear-of-the-car-skids-to-the-right-driver-steers-to-the-right

Rule 119: Rear of the car skids to the right. Driver steers to the right

120

ABS. If your vehicle is fitted with anti-lock brakes, you should follow the advice given in the vehicle handbook. However, in the case of an emergency, apply the footbrake firmly; do not release the pressure until the vehicle has slowed to the desired speed. The ABS should ensure that steering control will be retained, but do not assume that a vehicle with ABS will stop in a shorter distance.

121

Brakes affected by water. If you have driven through deep water your brakes may be less effective. Test them at the first safe opportunity by pushing gently on the brake pedal to make sure that they work. If they are not fully effective, gently apply light pressure while driving slowly. This will help to dry them out.

122

Coasting. This term describes a vehicle travelling in neutral or with the clutch pressed down. It can reduce driver control because

The Driver and the Environment

123

You MUST NOT leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road. Generally, if the vehicle is stationary and is likely to remain so for more than a couple of minutes, you should apply the parking brake and switch off the engine to reduce emissions and noise pollution. However it is permissible to leave the engine running if the vehicle is stationary in traffic or for diagnosing faults.

Law CUR regs 98 & 107

Speed limits

124

You MUST NOT exceed the maximum speed limits for the road and for your vehicle (see the table below). The presence of street lights generally means that there is a 30 mph (48 km/h) speed limit unless otherwise specified.

Law RTRA sects 81, 86, 89 & sch 6

125

The speed limit is the absolute maximum and does not mean it is safe to drive at that speed irrespective of conditions. Driving at speeds too fast for the road and traffic conditions is dangerous. You should always reduce your speed when

Speed Limits (updated on 21/03/2017)

Type of vehicleBuilt-up areas mph(km/h)Single carriageways mph (km/h)Dual carriageways mph (km/h)Motorways mph(km/h)
Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles 30 (48) 60 (96) 70 (112) 70 (112)
Cars, motorcycles, car-derived vans and dual-purpose vehicles when towing caravans or trailers 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 60 (96)
Motorhomes or motor caravans (not more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) 30 (48) 60 (96) 70 (112) 70 (112)
Motorhomes or motor caravans (more than 3.05 tonnes maximum unladen weight) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112)
Buses, coaches and minibuses (not more than 12 metres overall length) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112)
Buses, coaches and minibuses (more than 12 metres overall length) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 60 (96)
Goods vehicles (not more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112)
60 (96) if articulated or towing a trailer
Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in England and Wales 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 60 (96)
Goods vehicles (more than 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in Scotland 30 (48) 40 (64) 50 (80) 60 (96)

A speed limit of 30 miles per hour (mph) or 48 kilometres per hour (km/h) usually applies, unless you see signs showing otherwise.

126

typical-stopping-distances

Typical Stopping Distances

Stopping Distances. Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear. You should

If you have to stop in a tunnel, leave at least a 5-metre gap between you and the vehicle in front.

rule-126-use-a-fixed-point-to-help-measure-a-two-second-gap

Rule 126: Use a fixed point to help measure a two-second gap

Lines and lane markings on the road (127 to 132)

Download ‘Road markings’

to see diagrams of all lines.

127

A broken white line. This marks the centre of the road. When this line lengthens and the gaps shorten, it means that there is a hazard ahead. Do not cross it unless you can see the road is clear and wish to overtake or turn off.

128

Double white lines where the line nearest to you is broken. This means you may cross the lines to overtake if it is safe, provided you can complete the manoeuvre before reaching a solid white line on your side. White direction arrows on the road indicate that you need to get back onto your side of the road.

129

Double white lines where the line nearest you is solid. This means you MUST NOT cross or straddle it unless it is safe and you need to enter adjoining premises or a side road. You may cross the line if necessary, provided the road is clear, to pass a stationary vehicle, or overtake a pedal cycle, horse or road maintenance vehicle, if they are travelling at 10 mph (16 km/h) or less.

Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 26

130

Areas of white diagonal stripes or chevrons painted on the road. These are to separate traffic lanes or to protect traffic turning right.

Laws MT(E&W)R regs 5, 9, 10 & 16, MT(S)R regs 4, 8, 9 & 14, RTA sect 36 & TSRGD 10(1)

131

Lane dividers. These are short, broken white lines which are used on wide carriageways to divide them into lanes. You should keep between them.

132

Reflective road studs may be used with white lines.

rule-132-reflective-road-studs-mark-the-lanes-and-edge-of-the-carriageway

Rule 132: Reflective road studs mark the lanes and edge of the carriageway

Multi-lane carriageways (133 to 143)

Lane discipline

133

If you need to change lane, first use your mirrors and if necessary take a quick sideways glance to make sure you will not force another road user to change course or speed. When it is safe to do so, signal to indicate your intentions to other road users and when clear, move over.

134

You should follow the signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed. In congested road conditions do not change lanes unnecessarily. Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident. It is not recommended at high speed.

Single carriageway

135

Where a single carriageway has three lanes and the road markings or signs do not give priority to traffic in either direction

136

Where a single carriageway has four or more lanes, use only the lanes that signs or markings indicate.

Dual carriageways

A dual carriageway is a road which has a central reservation to separate the carriageways.

137

On a two-lane dual carriageway you should stay in the left-hand lane. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking or turning right. After overtaking, move back to the left-hand lane when it is safe to do so.

138

On a three-lane dual carriageway, you may use the middle lane or the right-hand lane to overtake but return to the middle and then the left-hand lane when it is safe.

139

Climbing and crawler lanes. These are provided on some hills. Use this lane if you are driving a slow-moving vehicle or if there are vehicles behind you wishing to overtake. Be aware of the signs and road markings which indicate the lane is about to end.

140

Cycle lanes. These are shown by road markings and signs. You MUST NOT drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a solid white line during its times of operation. Do not drive or park in a cycle lane marked by a broken white line unless it is unavoidable. You MUST NOT park in any cycle lane whilst waiting restrictions apply.

Law RTRA sects 5 & 8

141

Bus lanes. These are shown by road markings and signs that indicate which (if any) other vehicles are permitted to use the bus lane. Unless otherwise indicated, you should not drive in a bus lane during its period of operation. You may enter a bus lane to stop, to load or unload where this is not prohibited.

142

High-occupancy vehicle lanes and other designated vehicle lanes. Lanes may be restricted for use by particular types of vehicle; these restrictions may apply some or all of the time. The operating times and vehicle types will be indicated on the accompanying traffic signs. You MUST NOT drive in such lanes during their times of operation unless signs indicate that your vehicle is permitted.

Download ‘Traffic signs’

Vehicles permitted to use designated lanes may or may not include cycles, buses, taxis, licensed private hire vehicles, motorcycles, heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs). Where HOV lanes are in operation, they MUST ONLY be used by

Laws RTRA sects 5 & 8, & RTA 1988, sect 36

143

One-way streets. Traffic MUST travel in the direction indicated by signs. Buses and/or cycles may have a contraflow lane. Choose the correct lane for your exit as soon as you can. Do not change lanes suddenly. Unless road signs or markings indicate otherwise, you should use

Remember – traffic could be passing on both sides.

Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & RTRA sects 5 & 8

General advice (144 to 158)

144

You MUST NOT

Law RTA 1988 sects 2 & 3 as amended by RTA 1991

145

You MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, footpath or bridleway except to gain lawful access to property, or in the case of an emergency.

Laws HA 1835 sect 72 & RTA 1988 sect 34

146

Adapt your driving to the appropriate type and condition of road you are on. In particular

147

Be considerate. Be careful of and considerate towards all types of road users, especially those requiring extra care (see Rule 204).

148

Safe driving and riding needs concentration. Avoid distractions when driving or riding such as

You MUST NOT smoke in public transport vehicles or in vehicles used for work purposes in certain prescribed circumstances. Separate regulations apply to England, Wales and Scotland. In England and Wales, the driver MUST NOT smoke or allow anyone to smoke in an enclosed private vehicle carrying someone under 18, including motor caravans. In Scotland it is an offence for anyone aged 18 or over to smoke in a private motor vehicle (unless it is parked and being used as living accommodation) when there is someone under 18 in the vehicle and the vehicle is in a public place.

Laws TSf(EV)R regs, TSfP(W)R regs, TPSCP(S)R regs, S-f(PV)R regs & S-f(W)R regs

Mobile phones and in-vehicle technology

149

You MUST exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times. You MUST NOT use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, when driving or when supervising a learner driver, except to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is unsafe or impractical to stop. Never use a hand-held microphone when driving. Using hands-free equipment is also likely to distract your attention from the road. It is far safer not to use any telephone while you are driving or riding - find a safe place to stop first or use the voicemail facility and listen to messages later.

Laws RTA 1988 sects 2 & 3 & CUR regs 104 & 110

150

There is a danger of driver distraction being caused by in-vehicle systems such as satellite navigation systems, congestion warning systems, PCs, multi-media, etc. You MUST exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times. Do not rely on driver assistance systems such as cruise control or lane departure warnings. They are available to assist but you should not reduce your concentration levels. Do not be distracted by maps or screen-based information (such as navigation or vehicle management systems) while driving or riding. If necessary find a safe place to stop.

Laws RTA 1988 sects 2 & 3 & CUR reg 104

151

In slow-moving traffic. You should

rule-151-do-not-block-access-to-a-side-road

Rule 151: Do not block access to a side road

Driving in built-up areas

152

Residential streets. You should drive slowly and carefully on streets where there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars. In some areas a 20 mph (32 km/h) maximum speed limit may be in force. Look out for

153

Traffic-calming measures. On some roads there are features such as road humps, chicanes and narrowings which are intended to slow you down. When you approach these features reduce your speed. Allow cyclists and motorcyclists room to pass through them. Maintain a reduced speed along the whole of the stretch of road within the calming measures. Give way to oncoming road users if directed to do so by signs. You should not overtake other moving road users while in these areas.

rule-153-chicanes-may-be-used-to-slow-traffic-down

Rule 153: Chicanes may be used to slow traffic down

Country roads

154

Take extra care on country roads and reduce your speed at approaches to bends, which can be sharper than they appear, and at junctions and turnings, which may be partially hidden. Be prepared for pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, slow-moving farm vehicles or mud on the road surface. Make sure you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. You should also reduce your speed where country roads enter villages.

155

Single-track roads. These are only wide enough for one vehicle. They may have special passing places. If you see a vehicle coming towards you, or the driver behind wants to overtake, pull into a passing place on your left, or wait opposite a passing place on your right. Give way to road users coming uphill whenever you can. If necessary, reverse until you reach a passing place to let the other vehicle pass. Slow down when passing pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

156

Do not park in passing places.

Vehicles prohibited from using roads and pavements

157

Certain motorised vehicles do not meet the construction and technical requirements for road vehicles and are generally not intended, not suitable and not legal for road, pavement, footpath, cycle path or bridleway use. These include most types of miniature motorcycles, also called mini motos, and motorised scooters, also called go peds, which are powered by electric or internal combustion engines. These types of vehicle MUST NOT be used on roads, pavements, footpaths or bridleways.

Laws RTA 1988 sects 34, 41a, 42, 47, 63 & 66, HA 1835, sect 72, & R(S)A sect 129

158

Certain models of motorcycles, motor tricycles and quadricycles, also called quad bikes, are suitable only for off-road use and do not meet legal standards for use on roads. Vehicles that do not meet these standards MUST NOT be used on roads. They MUST NOT be used on pavements, footpaths, cycle paths or bridleways either. You MUST make sure that any motorcycle, motor tricycle, quadricycle or any other motor vehicle meets legal standards and is properly registered, taxed and insured before using it on the roads. Even when registered, taxed and insured for the road, vehicles MUST NOT be used on pavements.

Laws RTA 1988 sects 34, 41a, 42, 47, 63, 66 & 156, HA 1835, sect 72, R(S)A sect 129, & VERA Ss 1, 29, 31A, & 43A

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