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Highway Code General Advice

This general guidance and advice section covers the Highway Code rules 144 to 158. It explains how to drive with reasonable consideration for other road users.

Highway Code General Rules and Advice

Rule 144: Road users MUST NOT:

  • Drive a vehicle in a dangerous manner.
  • Drive without due care and attention.
  • Drive without reasonable consideration for other road users.

Rule 145: Motorists MUST NOT drive on or over a pavement, a footpath, or a bridleway. There are exceptions when gaining lawful access to property and in emergency situations.

Adapting Your Driving

Rule 146: You should also adapt the way you drive to the appropriate type and condition of road you are on. This includes, but not limited to, the following advice:

  • Do not treat speed limits as a target (maximum speed limits are optimal).
  • Always take the road and traffic conditions into account.
  • Be prepared for unexpected or difficult situations (e.g. a blocked road beyond a blind bend).
  • Always be ready and prepared to adjust the speed of your vehicle as a precaution.
  • Look out for other road users who may be pulling out of a junction.
  • Be prepared to stop at traffic control systems, at road works, pedestrian crossings, or at traffic lights.
  • Be alert for children who may be looking the other way and may step out into the road without seeing you.
  • Watch for unmarked junctions where nobody has priority. Examples include some side roads and country lanes.

Showing Consideration

Rule 147: Be considerate and careful towards all types of traffic and while driving at vulnerable situations. This applies most around road users requiring extra care.

Common examples include children, pedestrians, cyclists, and where there may be animals in the road.

  • You MUST NOT throw anything out of a vehicle. Examples include food or food packaging, cigarette ends, cans, paper, or carrier bags.
  • Throwing items from a car can endanger other road users. It can be particularly dangerous for motorcyclists and cyclists.
  • Try to be understanding if other road users cause you problems. They may have little experienced or not know the area very well. Try to be a patient motorist. Remember – anyone can make a mistake.
  • Do not allow yourself to become agitated and do not get involved if someone is behaving in a bad way on the road. You should avoid making the situation worse. Thus, pull over and calm down before continuing your journey.
  • If a road user pulls out into your path at a junction, you should slow down and hold back. Avoid overreacting by driving too close behind to intimidate them. Instead, let them to get clear.

Using Safe Driving Techniques

Rule 148: Safe driving and riding needs focus and concentration. Avoid the common distractions when driving or riding which include:

  • Loud music (because it may mask other sounds).
  • Trying to read maps.
  • Starting or adjusting any music or radio.
  • Arguing with your passengers or other road users.
  • Eating, drinking, or 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.

Mobile Phones and In-vehicle Technology

Rule 149: All motorists MUST exercise proper control of their vehicle at all times and MUST NOT use a hand-held mobile phone, or similar device, when driving or when supervising a learner driver.

Note: The exception could be to call 999 or 112 in a genuine emergency when it is unsafe or impractical to stop.

You should never use a hand-held microphone when driving. Using hands-free equipment is also likely to distract your attention from the road. Instead, consider finding a safe place to stop first. Or, use the voicemail facility and listen to messages later. It is far safer not to use any telephone while you are driving or riding.

Updated Rule

The new rules allow you to park a vehicle using a hand-held remote control app or similar device. But, the app or the device MUST be legal, and using it should not put other road users or pedestrians in danger.

Rule 150: In-vehicle systems such as satellite navigation systems, congestion warning systems, PCs, multimedia, and others pose a danger of driver distraction. You MUST exercise proper control of your vehicle at all times.

You should not over rely on driver assistance systems (e.g. cruise control or lane departure warnings). These devices are available to assist you. But, they should not reduce your roadworthy awareness and concentration levels.

Find a safe place to stop to avoid getting distracted by maps or by screen-based information while driving. This includes satellite navigation or vehicle management systems.

The driver is responsible for the vehicle while using a driver assistance system (e.g. motorway assist). The same responsibility applies while using a hand-held remote control parking app or similar device. Thus, the driver of the vehicle MUSThave full control over these systems at all times.

Self-driving Vehicles

In the Highway Code, the term ‘self-driving vehicles’ refers to those that the Secretary of State for Transport lists as automated vehicles under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018.

Simply put, these vehicles have the capability of driving themselves ‘safely’ after correctly switching on the self-driving function and when the driver follows the instructions set out by the manufacturer.

The driver is not responsible for how the vehicle drives while the self-driving vehicle is ‘driving itself’ in any valid situation. Thus, you would be allowed to turn your attention away from the road. Nonetheless, the driver MUST follow all relevant laws, including:

  • Being fit to drive according to rules 90 to 96 (e.g. be within the drink-drive legal limits and not be under the influence of drugs).
  • Making sure the vehicle is road legal (e.g. taxed, insured, with a valid MOT certificate) and being responsible for any passengers according to rules 98 to 102.
  • Not doing anything against the law (e.g. using a handheld mobile phone or similar hand-held device – some exceptions apply).

In certain situations, a self-driving vehicle will need to hand control back to the driver. If so, it will give enough warning so that you can do this in a safe manner.

As a result, the driver MUST always be ready and able to take control when prompted to do so (e.g. awake and seated in the driving seat).

Note: Rule 150 still applies to any motorist who is driving a vehicle using only its assisted driving features (e.g. cruise control).

While in Slow-moving Traffic

Rule 151: Do not block access to a side road. When you get involved in traffic which is slow-moving, you should:

  • Reduce the distance between you and the vehicle ahead to maintain traffic flow.
  • Leave enough space to be able to maneuver if the vehicle in front breaks down. The same applies if an emergency vehicle needs to get past.
  • Allow access into and from side roads. Blocking them will add to traffic congestion.
  • Never get so close to the vehicle in front that you cannot stop in a safe manner.
  • Be aware of cyclists and motorcyclists who may be passing on either side of your vehicle.
  • Not change road lanes to the left so you can overtake.

Driving in Built-up Areas

Residential Streets

Rule 152: Drive slow and careful on residential streets or streets where there are likely to be pedestrians, cyclists and parked cars. A maximum speed limit of 20 mph (32 km/h) may be in force in some residential areas. You should be alert and look out for:

  • UK Traffic Calming Measures Highway Code (e.g. chicanes)Vehicles moving off or car doors opening.
  • Pedestrians or children running out into the road.
  • Small children may be crossing between parked cars.
  • Cyclists and motorcyclists.
  • Vehicles pulling out of a junction or a driveway.

Traffic Calming Measures Highway Code (chicanes)

Rule 153: Some roads have traffic-calming measures to slow the traffic. They use features such as road humps, chicanes, or a narrowing of the road.

As a rule, traffic-calming measures and chicanes will slow you down. Thus, reduce your speed when you approach these features. Always allow cyclists and motorcyclists enough room to pass through the road obstacles.

Maintain a reduced speed along the whole of the stretch of road within the calming measures. Give way to oncoming road users if directed to do so by the signage. You should not overtake other moving road users while in these controlled areas.

Country Roads

Rule 154: Take extra care on country roads. Reduce your speed at approaches to bends, junctions, and turnings. The bend can be sharper than it appears or side roads may be part hidden.

Be prepared to slow down for pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists, slow-moving farm vehicles, or mud on the road surface. Be sure you can stop within the distance you can see to be clear. Reduce your vehicle speed where country roads enter into villages.

Rule 155: As a rule, single-track roads are only wide enough for one vehicle to pass through. Even so, they may have special passing places. If you see a vehicle coming towards you, or the driver behind wants to overtake, pull into a passing place on your left. In some cases, you can wait opposite a passing place on your right hand side.

Give way to vehicles coming uphill whenever you can. If necessary, reverse until you reach a passing place to let the other vehicle pass. Slow down your speed when passing pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders.

Rule 156: You should avoid parking in areas where vehicles overtake. Do not park in passing places.

Vehicles Using Roads and Pavements

Rule 157: Some motorized vehicles need vehicle type approval for road use. As a rule, they are not intended, suitable, or legal for using on roads, pavements, footpaths, cycle paths or bridleways.

They include most types of miniature motorcycles (aka mini motos) and motorised scooters (aka go peds). These machines are powered by electric or internal combustion engines. These types of vehicles MUST NOT get used on the road, pavement, footpath or bridleway.

Rule 158: Certain models of motorcycles, motor tricycles and quadricycles, also called quad bikes, do not meet the legal standards for use on the roads. They are suitable only for off-road use.

Any vehicle that does not meet the required standards MUST NOT get used on roads in the United Kingdom. They MUST NOT get used on pavements, footpaths, cycle paths or bridleways either.

You MUST make sure that any motor vehicle used on the road meets the legal standards. It must be properly registered, taxed and insured before using it on the roads. Even so, certain vehicles MUST NOT get used on pavements even when they get registered, taxed, and insured.

General Advice on the Highway Code Rules in the United Kingdom