I promised one more post of just a few follow-up items. Basically, a few things that are different from the U.S. that I think are interesting and what we’re not accustomed to in our daily lives.
National Speed Limit
That’s right, there are national speed limits. There are signs to indicate when the speed limit varies from the nationally set speeds, but you are supposed to know them because often a sign crops up to tell you the road is now the national speed limit with no further clarification. For a typical car or motorcycle, the national speed limit is as follows: (I also have a diagram Wikimedia was so kind as to have to illustrate the types of carriageways)
Built-up areas (towns, etc) – 30mph
Single Carriageways – 60mph
Dual Carriageways – 70mph
Motorways – 70mph
Now, just because the speed limit is 70 on a motorway doesn’t mean the police can’t pull you over for going the speed limit or even under. The speed limit is an “absolute maximum.” You are supposed to adjust your driving speed depending upon road conditions and weather. If you’re driving at motorway at 70mph in a heavy fog and rain, you could receive a ticket for what is essentially reckless driving.
You also have to watch out for speed cameras, but here, you are supposed to be warned before a stationary camera. We have seen small vans with speed cameras on the roof driving along the motorways when we were on holiday last August. Even that automobile had a sign on it to say what it was.
There are quite a few different cross walks here and all use an animal name to differentiate them.
Zebra Crossing – These have the white stripes across the road and a flashing light/beacon on each side of the road. Some Zebra crossings have an “island” between car lanes. Each side of the road is taken separately since there is a place to wait until there is a break in traffic.
Pelican Crossing – Have a pedestrian controlled signal more like what we’re accustomed to. You press the button and wait for the figure to go from red to green. On a Pelican crossing there is a flashing green when the crossing signal is about to turn red.
Puffin Crossing – Same as the Pelican crossing but the figure doesn’t blink green before it changes to red.
Toucan Crossing – Is a light controlled like the two above except that it is shared with bicycles.
There are also equestrian crossings for horses as well.
Most parking is a pay and display set up around the U.K. When you find your parking space, you find a machine nearby, pay for the time you want, and display your receipt in the car windscreen/windshield. There is parallel parking on a lot of streets, but make sure you never park on a solid yellow line. People can unload, but not park. (Disabled can park in some of these areas however, so don’t be fooled by a single car parked on a yellow line.) If it’s a double yellow line or a red line, just don’t stop there. You’re better off 🙂
Driving code says not to parallel park facing oncoming traffic. I think the majority of the British violate this particular rule on a daily basis. People are parked in every which way on both sides of the road. It’s not something I prefer to do, but it is done.
The roads here look like someone scribbled all over them at times. It took me a while to get used to the amount of information on the road around here as well as what is on signs, etc. At the end of most roads is a “give way” upside-down triangle for example. Other marks include: cross walks, zigzag lines before cross walks and in other places. Driving code says not to park within these lines. A cross-hatched section in yellow means not to even stop in that area. Locally, we have one of these in front of the fire station and at an intersection near a roundabout. It makes congestion easier if people exiting the roundabout can turn where they need to quickly. In large roundabouts, the lanes are sometimes marked so the driver knows which lane to take in order to exit correctly. Speed limits are marked on the roads when the speed limit decreases. It’s a lot to take in at times!
I’m trying to think of anything else that can be useful, but I’m drawing a blank at this point. I feel like a lot of the signs are similar or able to be figured out when you’re in a certain situation. If you ever attempt to drive in England, I do hope these posts help!
Next up: Another trip to Bath!
Sources for images and information:
Licensing for street sign images:
7 thoughts on “Some Final Tidbits on Driving in the U.K.”
Do you feel comfortable now that you have been there a while? Practice makes perfect…or so they say!!
Now that I’m driving a U.K. spec car and not swapping back between a US and UK car, I am comfortable. It was disorienting when I kept swapping back and forth. Thanks, Carole!
Loved the post, Leslie. Such fun to see day to day things with new eyes.
So, are you driving to Alton or jumping on the train?
Looking forward to seeing you there, it’ll be such fun!
After three posts, I’m sure those who asked me what driving here was like regretted asking. LOL! I drove to Alton last year in my US mini-van and chauffeured everyone around when we weren’t walking. My plan so far is to drive again this year. See you there!
As one who was born and bred in the UK, this stuff is all second nature to me obviously, but I found driving in the USA on a holiday some years ago quite a challenge.
It’d be interesting to see you compare and contrast (sounds like an exam question) of the features peculiar to both countries at some point in the future.
I really wish I could come to Alton in June this year and meet you all. I had a cunning plan all set up but family visiting from Australia and a bad back have rather scuppered everything. Have fun and make sure you post lots of pictures etc. I’ll just have to be with you in spirit.
Oh no! I’m sorry about the bad back! I have problems with my neck which is why I try to keep up with swimming since I really don’t have to do the physical therapy exercises when I can get into the pool a few times a week. I suppose it strengthens some of those muscles I need to compensate for the issues. Anyway, I’ll keep in mind about a comparison. I’d never considered doing it that way 🙂 Hopefully, I’ll have more fun places to blog about with the weather getting warmer. At least the last few months of cold and flu bugs seem to be finally going away! (knock on wood!) Thanks, Anji!
I know my limitations and would never attempt to drive in the UK or any other nation which has cars driving as they do there. I am sure that in an emergency my trained instincts would kick in and I would be responsible for an accident.