Driving in the UK – Tips for Expats
Expats fall into the same driving regulations as UK residents. You must be over 17 years old and pass both a theory and practical driving test before being allowed to drive a car on their own.
In the US, a teenager can have a driving licence from 16, however, if they were to move to the UK they would not be able to drive until they turn 17.
If you have held a valid driving licence in your home or previous country of residence for at least 12 months and it is not going to expire whilst you are in the UK, you can drive on UK roads.
You can drive in the UK with your home licence for up to 12 months. After this time, you will have to change over to a UK drivers licence.
Depending on where you are moving from, you may not need to retake a driving test to obtain a UK licence. Often it is based on whether you have a national or international licence.
There are some exceptions to the rule, but generally, if you have obtained a licence in a country where you drive on the right, you might need to take your test again to drive on the left side of the road.
To find out if you need to retake your test, visit the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). They can give you all the information you need to book and take your driving test.
Here are some other things you need to know when driving in the UK.
Know who the DVLA is
The DVLA is the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency here in the UK. It maintains the database of drivers and vehicles in Great Britain.
If you need to renew your licence, you can fill in a form on their website. You do not need to visit the DVLA in person.
The UK driving Penalty Point System
In the UK, there is a penalty point system in place. Points are added to your licence for road violations such as speeding, jumping red lights, accidents and car safety issues.
If you collect 12 or more penalty points within 3 years, your licence will automatically be revoked for at least 6 months.
Depending on the offences and number of points, you may also receive a large fine, you may have to appear in court and may even receive a complete driving ban.
London Congestion Charge
London has what is called a congestion charge zone. This means that you must pay a fee each day that you drive into the zone. It was set up to try and ease the traffic that travels through the city.
Find out the up to date costs, and how to pay, here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/congestion-charge
London has a fantastic public transport network system, so it is not often needed to drive in the city.
If you break the speed limit and are caught, you will have to pay a large fine and will likely have penalty points added to your licence. Speeding is monitored by speed cameras or with a hand-held speed gun. As well as speed cameras, it is normal to find average speed cameras and automatic licence plate recognition.
Unless otherwise signposted, the speed limits in the UK are as follows:
30mph in towns and cities
60mph on single-lane carriageways
70mph on dual-lane carriageways and motorways.
Every car registered in the UK must have a vehicle tax. You can fill out a form online, and you will need to supply your vehicle registration with your current address, MOT certificate (if the car is over 3 years old) and the way of payment.
You can pay your car tax in the post office or online: https://www.gov.uk/vehicle-tax
In the UK, all cars must have at least third party insurance, although it is recommended to have fully comprehensive cover to protect your own car in the event of an accident. It is illegal to drive without insurance.
The Highway Code
- Seatbelts must be worn in the car at all times.
- Children under 12 years old or under 1.35m (whichever is reached first) must have an appropriate child’s seat and child restraints.
- The legal blood alcohol limit for drivers is 0.8% in England and Wales, and 0.5% in Scotland.
- It is illegal to use handheld mobile phones whilst driving. If you are caught there are hefty fines and penalty points added to your licence.
If you would like to find out any more information on driving in the UK, visit: https://www.gov.uk/browse/driving