Highway Code

The Highway Code is a manual of mandatory rules that must be adhered to by all road users in the UK.

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A common misconception is that only drivers of vehicles must understand the rules in The Highway Code. This is not the case; it is important for all road users to know and understand these rules. These road users include:

  • Drivers
  • Motorcyclists
  • Pedestrians
  • Cyclists
  • Children
  • Horse riders
  • Users of powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters

The Highway Code includes hundreds of rules, many of which are legal requirements. Violating these rules is a criminal offence which may lead to a fine, penalty points, disqualification from driving or being sent to prison in the most serious cases.

As a learner driver, knowledge and understanding of the Highway Code is essential. The questions that make up the driving theory test are derived from the Code so it is vital you revisit it regularly during your learning. We have set up this resource to aid your learning. You may browse the Highway Code rules below or use the search facility to find specific rules pertaining to a particular topic. For example, if you’re looking for information about “box junctions”, type in this term in the search box and hit enter. The rule containing information about this topic will appear (Rule 174). You may also save certain rules that you want to revisit at a later stage. By signing up for an account, you can access these saved rules in your dashboard.

If it has been a while since you took your test, you may not have looked at The Highway Code for a number of years. Just as driving or riding skills evolve and develop with time and experience, the rules and advice given in the Highway Code also change and evolve over time, for any number of reasons. Knowing and applying all the rules could help significantly reduce the number of road casualties. This is a responsibility we all share.

Ultimately, it is up to you to acquire and retain the knowledge contained in The Highway Code, regardless of whether you are a pedestrian or the user of any type of vehicle. It is your responsibility to ensure you keep up to date with the rules in The Highway Code – ignorance is no defence.

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307 Highway Code Rules

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Control of the vehicle (rules 117 to 126)

Highway Code Rule 122

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

  • engine braking is eliminated
  • vehicle speed downhill will increase quickly
  • increased use of the footbrake can reduce its effectiveness
  • steering response will be affected, particularly on bends and corners
  • it may be more difficult to select the appropriate gear when needed.
Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Control of the vehicle (rules 117 to 126)

Highway Code Rule 123

The Driver and the Environment. 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

Speed limits

Speed Limits Built-up areas* Single carriageways Dual carriageways Motorways
Type of vehicle mph (km/h) mph (km/h) mph (km/h) mph (km/h)
Cars & motorcycles (including car derived vans up to 2 tonnes maximum laden weight) 30 (48) 60 (96) 70 (112) 70 (112)
Cars towing caravans or trailers (including car derived vans and motorcycles) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 60 (96)
Buses, coaches and minibuses (not exceeding 12 metres in overall length) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70 (112)
Goods vehicles (not exceeding 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 70† (112)
Goods vehicles (exceeding 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in England and Wales 30 (48) 50 (80) 60 (96) 60 (96)
Goods vehicles (exceeding 7.5 tonnes maximum laden weight) in Scotland 30 (48) 40 (64) 50 (80) 60 (96)

*The 30 mph limit usually applies to all traffic on all roads with street lighting unless signs show otherwise.

†60 mph (96 km/h) if articulated or towing a trailer.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Control of the vehicle (rules 117 to 126)

Highway Code Rule 124

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

Law

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Control of the vehicle (rules 117 to 126)

Highway Code Rule 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

  • the road layout or condition presents hazards, such as bends
  • sharing the road with pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders, particularly children, and motorcyclists
  • weather conditions make it safer to do so
  • driving at night as it is more difficult to see other road users.
Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Control of the vehicle (rules 117 to 126)

Highway Code Rule 126

Download ‘Typical stopping distances’ (PDF, 124KB)

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

  • leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops. The safe rule is never to get closer than the overall stopping distance (see Typical Stopping Distances diagram, shown above)
  • allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic and in tunnels where visibility is reduced. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads
  • remember, large vehicles and motorcycles need a greater distance to stop. If driving a large vehicle in a tunnel, you should allow a four-second gap between you and the vehicle in front.

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
Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Control of the vehicle (rules 117 to 126)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Lines and lane markings on the road (rules 127 to 132)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Lines and lane markings on the road (rules 127 to 132)

Highway Code Rule 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

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Lines and lane markings on the road (rules 127 to 132)

Highway Code Rule 130

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

  • If the area is bordered by a broken white line, you should not enter the area unless it is necessary and you can see that it is safe to do so.
  • If the area is marked with chevrons and bordered by solid white lines you MUST NOT enter it except in an emergency.

Laws

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Lines and lane markings on the road (rules 127 to 132)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Lines and lane markings on the road (rules 127 to 132)

Highway Code Rule 132

Reflective road studs may be used with white lines.

  • White studs mark the lanes or the middle of the road.
  • Red studs mark the left edge of the road.
  • Amber studs mark the central reservation of a dual carriageway or motorway.
  • Green studs mark the edge of the main carriageway at lay-bys and slip roads.
  • Green/yellow studs indicate temporary adjustments to lane layouts, e.g. where road works are taking place.
Rule 132: Reflective road studs mark the lanes and edge of the carriageway
Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Lines and lane markings on the road (rules 127 to 132)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 135

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

  • use the middle lane only for overtaking or turning right. Remember, you have no more right to use the middle lane than a driver coming from the opposite direction
  • do not use the right-hand lane.
Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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.

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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 (see ‘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

  • vehicles containing at least the minimum number of people indicated on the traffic signs
  • any other vehicles, such as buses and motorcycles, as indicated on signs prior to the start of the lane, irrespective of the number of occupants.

Laws

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 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

  • the left-hand lane when going left
  • the right-hand lane when going right
  • the most appropriate lane when going straight ahead. Remember – traffic could be passing on both sides.

Laws

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: Multi-lane carriageways (rules 133 to 143)

Highway Code Rule 144

You MUST NOT

  • drive dangerously
  • drive without due care and attention
  • drive without reasonable consideration for other road users.

Law

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)

Highway Code Rule 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

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)

Highway Code Rule 146

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

  • do not treat speed limits as a target. It is often not appropriate or safe to drive at the maximum speed limit
  • take the road and traffic conditions into account. Be prepared for unexpected or difficult situations, for example, the road being blocked beyond a blind bend. Be prepared to adjust your speed as a precaution
  • where there are junctions, be prepared for road users emerging
  • in side roads and country lanes look out for unmarked junctions where nobody has priority
  • be prepared to stop at traffic control systems, road works, pedestrian crossings or traffic lights as necessary
  • try to anticipate what pedestrians and cyclists might do. If pedestrians, particularly children, are looking the other way, they may step out into the road without seeing you.
Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)

Highway Code Rule 147

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

  • you MUST NOT throw anything out of a vehicle; for example, food or food packaging, cigarette ends, cans, paper or carrier bags. This can endanger other road users, particularly motorcyclists and cyclists.
  • try to be understanding if other road users cause problems; they may be inexperienced or not know the area well.
  • be patient; remember that anyone can make a mistake.
  • do not allow yourself to become agitated or involved if someone is behaving badly on the road. This will only make the situation worse. Pull over, calm down and, when you feel relaxed, continue your journey.
  • slow down and hold back if a road user pulls out into your path at a junction. Allow them to get clear. Do not over-react by driving too close behind to intimidate them.

Law

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)

Highway Code Rule 148

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

  • loud music (this may mask other sounds)
  • trying to read maps
  • starting or adjusting any music or radio
  • arguing with your passengers or other road users
  • eating and drinking
  • smoking

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

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)

Highway Code Rule 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.

You may park your vehicle using a hand-held remote control app or device. The app or device MUST be legal, and you should not put other people in danger when you use it.

Laws

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)

Highway Code Rule 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 motorway assist, lane departure warnings, or remote control parking. 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.

As the driver, you are still responsible for the vehicle if you use a driver assistance system (like motorway assist). This is also the case if you use a hand-held remote control parking app or device. You MUST have full control over these systems at all times.

Laws

Section: General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders (rules 103 to 158)
Subsection: General advice (rules 144 to 158)