The following general road rules and tips may help you adjust to driving in the UK:
Among the many strange habits of the British is that of driving on the left-hand side of the road. If you’re used to driving on the right it may be helpful to have a reminder (e.g. ‘think left!’) on your car’s dashboard. Take extra care when pulling out of junctions, one-way streets and at roundabouts. Remember to look first to the right when crossing the road and drivers of left-hand cars should make sure that headlights are dipped to the left when driving at night.
If you’re unused to driving on the left, you should be prepared for some disorientation, although most people have few problems adjusting to it. Some drivers have a real fear of driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. If this applies to you, the International Drivers Service (020-8570 9190) specialises in teaching foreigners how to survive on British roads. The traffic system, density and speed of traffic are all also completely alien to many foreigners, particularly Americans.
All motorists are advised to carry a warning triangle, although it isn’t mandatory. If you have an accident or a breakdown, you should signal this by switching on your hazard warning lights. If you have a warning triangle, it must be placed at the edge of the road, at least 50m behind the car on secondary roads and at least 150m on motorways.
There’s no priority to the right (or left) on British roads (unlike, for example, the continental priority to the right). At all crossroads and junctions, there’s either an octagonal stop sign with a solid white line on road or a triangular give way sign (dotted white line on road), where a secondary road meets a major road. ‘Stop’ or ‘give way’ may also be painted on the road surface. You must stop completely at a stop sign (all four wheels must come to rest), before pulling out on to a major road, even if you can see that no traffic is approaching. At a give way sign, you aren’t required to stop, but must give priority to traffic already on the major road.
On country roads, sharp bends are shown by signs and the severity (tightness) of a bend is indicated by white arrows on a black background (or vice versa); the more arrows, the tighter the bend (so slow down).
Don’t drive in lanes reserved for buses and taxis, unless necessary to avoid a stationary vehicle or obstruction, and give priority to authorised users. Bus lanes are indicated by road markings and signs indicate the period of operation, which is usually during rush hours only (although some lanes are in use 24 hours a day), and which vehicles are permitted to use them. Bus drivers get irate if you illegally drive in their lane and you can be fined for doing so.