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British Life and Culture

by Mandy Barrow

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British life and culture - England, Scotland and Wales
What is it like to drive in Britain?

In Britain, we drive on the left-hand side of the road, so the steering wheel is on the right. However the pedals are in the same position as in left-handed cars, with the accelerator (gas pedal) on the right. The gears and almost always the handbrake (parking brake) is operated with the left hand.

inside a car

Most cars in Britain are manual cars i.e have a gear stick.


Petrol (Gas) in Britain is one of the most expensive in the world. We pay on average 95 pence a litre.

The wearing of front seat belts was made mandatory for motorists in 1983.

Minimum driving age in the UK

The minimum age for driving a car in the UK is 17, and 16 for riding a moped or motorbike with a maximum engine capacity of 50cc.


There are some 225,000 miles (362,000 km) of roads in Britain. Many of the roads are built on the old roads laid down by the Romans centuries ago.

Roads in Britain range from wide modern motorways down to narrow country lanes usually bordered by hedges, stone walls, grassy banks or ditches. Cities and towns tend to have compact streets because they date back to well before cars were invented, and were certainly not planned for large lorries (trucks).

ow lanenarrow street


In Britain, our three main roads are "M" roads, "A" roads, and "B" roads.

  • "M" roads are like American freeways. They are known as motorways and are fast roads.
    They have three or four lanes.
  • "A" roads are not controlled-access: they range from two-lane divided highways ("dual carraigeways") down to one-lane roads. They are the main routes between towns.
  • "B" roads are the smaller of the three. They may be in the open or have impentrable foliage right up to the road. Road markings (curves, etc.) may be sparse.

M25 motorway
M25 motorway

Some motorways have tolls (pay a fee to drive)

The first toll motorway, the M6 Toll, opened in December 2003 to ease motorway congestion in the West Midlands. The 43-kilometre expressway cuts journey times around Birmingham by an estimated 45 minutes.

What is the National Speed Limit for driving in the UK?

All speed limits and distances, on signs, are given in miles or miles per hour. 1 mile is about 1.6 km.

Round signs indicate speed limits with the limit amount circled by a red band. When the speed limit has stopped then there is a black line at an angle crossing over a white circle.

Maximum speed limit in miles per hour
National speed limits apply
speed limit road sign
National speed limit road sign

The National Speed limits

  • Motorways and dual carriage ways: 112km/h / 70mph
  • Unrestricted single carriageway roads: 96km/h / 60mph
  • Built up areas e.g. towns and villages: 48km/h / 30mph
  • Residential areas: 35km/h / 20mph

The following national speed limits apply to all roads unless there are signs to indicate otherwise - all speeds are shown in MPH

Type of Vehicles

Built-up Areas

Single Carriageway

Dual Carriageway


National Speed limits - unless you are one of the following groups:





Cars towing caravans & trailers





Buses and Coaches (Less than 12 meters long)





Goods Vehicles (less than 7.5 tonnes max laden weight





HGV's (more than 7.5 tonnes max laden weight)





Road Signs

Road signs in Britain


We have many roundabouts (taffic circles) in Britain. Traffic on the roundabouts have priority over cars coming onto the roundabout.

There is a good animation on the following page to show you how to use a roudabout.

Road sign
Road sign

Other pages on the same theme

What types of transport are there in England?

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All the materials on these pages are free for homework and classroom use only. You may not redistribute, sell or place the content of this page on any other website or blog without written permission from the Mandy Barrow.

© Copyright Mandy Barrow 2014

Mandy is the creator of the Woodlands Resources section of the Woodlands Junior website. 
The two websites and are the new homes for the Woodlands Resources.

Mandy left Woodlands in 2003 to work in Kent schools as an ICT Consultant.
She now teaches computers at The Granville School and St. John's Primary School in Sevenoaks Kent.

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