Although driving is a universal skill, it can be challenging to drive abroad and requires research to ensure your security, legality, and comfort. Even though the most salient difference between driving in the UK and the US is obvious: in the UK, drivers use their left side of the road instead of driving on their right. However, there are many other differences that expats working abroad in the UK should know.
It is helpful to read and study the UK Highway Code, a complete book of driving laws in the UK. Mark the fundamental differences between the laws at home and in the UK. Examples include passing other cars only in the outside (right) lane, never turning on a red light, and not blocking a central reservation at a junction, even if you have a green light.
It’s important for US drivers to study the road signs sections of the UK Highway Code. In the UK, the meaning of many road will be clear (such as “Stop” signs, traffic lights, and “Reduce Speed Now” signs), but others will be unfamiliar. For example, speed limit signs consist of the maximum speed, by number, in a red circle. However, speed limits may also be marked by a white circle with a diagonal black line through it. This indicates the national speed limit for that road type applies.
Other road markings are important to learn as they indicate when you are allowed – or forbidden – to pass other cars, where you may park or wait, and where you must stop to yield to other cars.
Roundabouts are common on British roads. While there are some in the US, roundabouts are less prevalent in some areas. A good way to navigate regular roundabouts is to pay attention to the diagrams posted at each roundabout. These signs illustrate which lane you must begin in to safely reach your correct exit.
Always bring your US driver’s license when driving abroad; otherwise, you will not be permitted to drive. Obtain a UK motor insurance policy, and bring a major credit card for deposits when renting a car.
In addition to learning about the differences in driving abroad in the UK, find out about safety and security by checking out UK risk assessment country guide.