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Road Rules in the UK: Your Questions Answered

Nov 1 2022 | Criminal Law

by Jamie Pellman

by Jamie Pellman

Head of Criminal Defence

In this article
What counts as a device?

A device is anything that can send or receive data. Common examples include phones, sat navs, tablets or handheld videogame consoles.

Even if you are using something that cannot send or receive data, engaging with anything distracting may still leave you liable for a fine.

How far are you allowed to reverse?

Reversing that follows road rules in the UK.Reversing plays a big role in your average driver’s daily routine, but how far can you legally reverse your car? For example, if your forward gears stopped working, could you reverse all the way home?

Whilst obviously an extreme example, it’s important to see how far road rules in the UK can actually protect you.

If you were to go with The Highway Code’s rather ambiguous definition, it sounds like it’s legal. It states that:

“You must not reverse your vehicle further than necessary”

So in our scenario, as our front gears no longer work, you might deem it ‘necessary’. However, you would in fact be wrong to do this. The Road Vehicles Regulations 1986 tells us that:

“No person shall drive, or cause or permit to be driven, a motor vehicle backwards on a road further than may be requisite for the safety or reasonable convenience of the occupants of the vehicle or other traffic”

As driving in reverse severely hinders your vision of the road, you would be affecting the safety of yourself and other road users.

What about a less convoluted scenario? Let’s say you have to reverse thirty metres to allow a HGV to pass. Is it legal to do so? I would say that this is necessary, as you’re doing so to avoid any potential accidents.

A lot of these scenarios, applicable to nearly all of these road rules in the UK, are left to the discretion of the traffic police. If they deem the manoeuvre to be dangerous to other road users, you might be facing a fine or points on your license.

In more serious cases, where you reverse on a dual carriageway or motorway, the fine extends up to £2,500. Of course, if it was an emergency, you can claim you had to reverse the car to avoid a potential accident.

When may you overtake another vehicle on the left?

Generally known as undertaking, it is usually never legal to overtake a vehicle on the left. It tends to be dangerous to do so, as road users don’t expect vehicles to appear from their left suddenly, thus not checking their mirrors thoroughly enough.

Nevertheless, there are some exceptions to the road rules in the UK when looking to overtake in a slower lane. These are:

Traffic is travelling faster in the left lane

Traffic allowing to overtake on the left as permitted by road rules in the UK.On motorways, it’s common for congestion to bring traffic to a standstill, meaning the left lanes may free up faster than the right ones.

In this case, it’s perfectly fine to use the left lane to undertake in order to keep the flow of traffic moving. If doing so, be mindful of any cars that pull out without double-checking their mirrors.

The vehicle ahead is turning right

If the road user ahead of you is taking the next right turn, you can overtake on the left. You should only do so if there is enough space to get past the vehicle.

When committing to such a manoeuvre, ensure that you check for any cyclists or other road users that may be hard to spot, as they could be overtaking you.

When may you drive over a pavement?

Road rules in the UK are more than clear about when vehicles can drive on the pavement. There are two exceptions as to when a driver can go on the pavement:

  • To gain lawful access to a property
  • In the case of an emergency

In some cases, it is illegal to park on the pavement. In congested cities like London, the road rules in the UK state that you should not park wholly or partially on the pavement.

Quieter areas tend to be more lax about letting road users park on the pavement. Before doing so, check for any signs that indicate a potential fine for doing so.

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If you found the contents of this blog useful, please feel free to share it on social media. Sharing our article helps others in need find the same information.