The world is a strange place at the moment. The global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns has meant many of us have had to cancel our holiday plans and international trips. Instead, we are looking closer to home for some rest and relaxation. So we are very lucky to live in the UK.

From the beaches of Cornwall and Devon, to the Scottish highlands. The beautiful welsh coastline to the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland, we are blessed to have a huge variety of different sights and locales to explore here in the UK. If one good thing comes from the pandemic, it could be that we learn to appreciate our home country a little more.

But if you are a jetsetter used to all-inclusive package holidays under the Mediterranean sun, a staycation may be a little bit daunting. So, whether you’re an experienced traveller or a new adventurer, we’ve put together this guide to help you through. We’ll answer all your questions, no matter how complicated or simple you think they are, to provide you with all you need to know. Here are our driving tips for your staycation.

Driving in England

What is the national speed limit in the UK? – The speed limit is dependent on the road you are driving on. If you are on a Motorway (M) road, the speed limit is 70mph. You might have heard that there is a bit of leeway, that you can drive up to the speed limit plus 10 per cent, so 77mph. This is a lie. You will get a ticket and potentially points on your licence if you are caught at 77 mph. The limit is 70.

On dual carriageways, you can drive up to 70mph when the national speed limit sign is present – a white circle with a single thick black line crossing diagonally through the centre.  On single carriageways, A roads, the limit is 60 mph. In urban areas, the limit is normally 30 mph. But you must always keep an eye on the local signage to see if there are any difference in place. Do not just follow what other drivers are doing on the road. They may not be abiding by the law.

When is it acceptable to break the speed limit? – In short, never. The speed limit has been put in place to keep you and other drivers safe. It is not there to ruin your fun or slow down your journey. It’s there to ensure you can keep control of your vehicle in the conditions of the road. Going over the limit puts yourself and others at risk. So think carefully before you put your foot down.

Differences in driving in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

Is the speed limit different in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland? – It may feel like you are entering a foreign country, but the laws of the road are the same. The speed limits are the same here, as will be the signage. The only difference you will see is that some of the road signs in Wales will be bilingual – in English and Welsh. Aside from that, the only difference you should notice will be in the type of scenery you see around you.

Driving etiquette

Is it legal to overtake? – Whether you are allowed to overtake or not depends on the road you are on and the location. If you are on a motorway, you can use the middle or fast lane to overtake slower vehicles in front of you. You should check your blind spot before changing lane and, once you have safely passed, you should return to the outside lane. You should not overtake at a junction or off-ramp, as the car in front may need to move over to let a vehicle join the road. Hogging the middle lane or fast lane is actually an offence – so you could end up getting a ticket from the police.

On single lane roads, you can overtake when the two lanes are not divided by an unbroken white line. This is easy to see and clearly marks areas where it is not safe for you to overtake. You should also not overtake before a corner or change in elevation of the road. If you can’t see what’s coming ahead, you could end up driving into oncoming traffic. Only overtake on straight roads with a clear line of sight of traffic ahead.

How do I overtake safely? – There are two key things you need to consider when overtaking: time and space. Do you have the time to get up to speed and overtake the vehicle in front before you hit a blind section or obstacle ahead? Is there enough space on the road for you to pass the car in front safely? If you consider these two things carefully, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t overtake, providing it is legal to do so.

Speed cameras

What are the different types of speed camera being used? – In the UK, there are four main types of speed camera in place.

The most common is the standard fixed position camera, normally signified by a bright yellow box at the side of the road. These cameras are preceded by a warning sign, highlighting their presence on the road ahead. You can also spot them by the markings on the road. They are usually found on normal single carriageway or dual carriageway roads.

A newer addition to the roster of speed cameras are the ‘average speed cameras’, most commonly found on motorways and dual carriageways. They are cameras on tall thin polls, with three to four cameras pointing at the lanes. You will need to maintain a speed below the limit for the duration of the section monitored. Once you exit the area, you will see a sign informing you that you are no longer in a speed controlled zone. Pay extra attention to the cameras on SMART motorways, as the speed limit here is variable.

The third type are traffic light cameras. They are designed to catch you when you drive through a red light. While not in place everywhere, they should make you think about trying to rush that amber light before it turns to red. These cameras are a grey box, normally on a pole aside from the traffic lights themselves.

The final kind are mobile speed cameras, set up by the police on roads that don’t normally have a camera. They are designed to catch those people speeding who think they can get away with it without the cameras present. They are not normally advertised, although some Facebook groups do report them if they are spotted out in the wild.

What happens if I’m caught speeding? -  In most cases, you will receive a fixed penalty charge notice of £100 and 3 points on your licence. If it’s your first offence or it’s been a few years since your last offence, you can take a driving awareness course, instead of having the points added to your licence. This is a one-day program which teaches you why it’s so important not to speed, and the consequences if you disobey the law.

If you are caught speeding by a police camera or driving vastly over the speed limit, then you could receive a different sort of penalty, divided into three bands. Band A is a fine of 3 points and 50% of your relevant weekly income. Band B is a fine of 4-6 points, 7-28 days disqualification, and 100% of your weekly income. Band B is 6 points, 7-56 days disqualified from driving, and 150% of relevant weekly income. If you collect 12 points in a three year period, you may be disqualified from driving entirely.

Is there any leeway? – There is a common misconception that the police allow drivers 10% plus 2 mph leeway when it comes to fines. So you could, in theory, drive up to 79 mph in a national speed limit area. However, this is not the law and is solely a recommendation that is given to the police.

First aid

Do I have to legally carry a first aid kit? Unlike in parts of Europe, especially France, there are a whole list of requirements of items that you need to keep in your car. But in the UK, there are hardly any rules on what you must carry in your car. However, it’s common sense to keep a first aid kit in your car, as you never know when you might need it.

What to do if you are involved in an accident? – If you have been involved in an accident that has caused you any sort of injury, you should not attempt to drive. Any accident that has a casualty should be reported to the police. If necessary, contact an ambulance too, just to give you a once over. The police officer will also be able to assess and see if medical attention is needed. If you are assessed as being fit to drive, then you can carry on. Otherwise, you will need to contact a friend or a recovery vehicle.

What to do if you witness an accident? – If you have witnessed an accident, you should try and write down as many details as possible. The number plates of the vehicles involved, the make and models of the cars, the number of passengers in each vehicle. You should only attempt to rescue people if it is safe to do so. Check the area for any hazards before approaching any vehicle, including traffic. And you should always call 999 and report the incident. If the accident is minor, then you may be asked for your details as a witness. If you are not comfortable doing so, provide them with your car’s number plate, and their insurer will be able to track you down.

Breaks and refreshments

How often should I take a break when driving? – The highway code recommends that you take a break every 2 hours when driving. However, as long as the breaks are planned in, you can drive a little longer between each break. You know your body and your concentration levels. Just as long as you give yourself time to stretch your legs and take a break, you will be fine.

Where should you stop? – Motorway services are the easiest place to take a break, as they are located and designed to be space apart on busy routes. If there aren’t any nearby, take a look for laybys and areas off the main road where you can stop for a break. If you have to leave a motorway for a break, you should do so. Just make sure that, if you are in an unfamiliar area, you know how to get back.

Travelling with young children

What should I do when travelling with young children? – Comfort and entertainment are the most important things when you travel with young children. Can you keep them comfortable in the long journey? Take blankets, pillows and a change of clothes with you. Take regular breaks and make sure you have snacks and drinks to keep them refreshed. It’s also a good idea to bring a tablet loaded with episodes of their favourite TV show so they can be distracted. Long car journeys are hard on your little ones, as they don’t have the same patience as you (might) have. So a little preparation can keep them happy.

Travelling with dogs

Are dogs required to wear a seatbelt? – You do not have to put your dog in a seatbelt. But you need to make sure they are restrained so they do not distract you from driving. A cage or some sort of restraint that you can attach to the car is ideal. As long as the dog is kept in position and can’t move around too much, then that’s okay.

Where should your dog sit during a journey? – If it’s just you in the car, then it’s best for the dog to be in the boot of the vehicle where it can be safely secured and won’t be a distraction. If you are travelling with a passenger, than the dog can sit next to them, providing it cannot move around too much. Keeping it calm and happy is important, as you don’t want them to become too stressed by the journey. But it must not distract you from the road.

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