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Brush up on your Highway Code

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You might not have been out in your car that much, especially on longer journeys, so if you’re thinking of taking longer drives, perhaps to visit family over the festive season, then you might want to get back up to speed on the rules of the road.

Luckily, there’s one handy place where you can find all those rules: the Highway Code, which is available online. 

It’s worth remembering that the Highway Code is not the law, but many of the rules in it are backed up by law, using the words ‘MUST’ and ‘MUST NOT’ (as opposed to ‘should’ or ‘should not’). 

We’ve chosen a few rules that you might need to be reminded of, after a weeks or months away from the steering wheel.

The two-second rule

Rule 126 is one that was drummed into many of us when we learned to drive but few of us seems to recall when actually driving.

It covers stopping distances and how much space we should leave between our vehicle and the one ahead. 

The easiest way to keep at a safe distance is to remember this:

“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.”

Watch the vehicle in front passing a fixed point – a sign, a bridge – and then count out two seconds. If you reach the fixed point before the two seconds, you're too close.

Know your road signs

Remembering what all the road signs mean can be a real test of memory, so an occasional brush-up is always worthwhile.

It's also useful to understand the underlying ‘code’ for understanding road signs. 

Any signs that are circular are there to give orders – think about signs about speed limits, or 'No Entry' signs.

Circular signs can be red or blue: red signs are prohibitive messages (you must not drive more than 30mph), while blue sins give positive instructions (Ahead Only, Turn Left, etc).

Triangular signs warn of dangers – or potential dangers – ahead, such as roads merging, while rectangular signs are there to inform drivers of specific traffic instructions (how lanes merge, controlled parking zones, bus lane information, etc).  

If you can remember these basic rules, it will be much easier to remember and understand any sign you pass.

Lane discipline

Most surveys of drivers naming their pet hates tend to be topped by people hogging lanes – driving in an outside lane when they’re not actually overtaking anything.

This is covered in Rule 163, which covers overtaking:

“Move quickly past the vehicle you are overtaking, once you have started to overtake. Allow plenty of room. Move back to the left as soon as you can but do not cut in.”

So, in short: pull out, overtake, pull back in again.

Is your eyesight good enough?

Rule 92 states that a driver must be able to read a vehicle number plate, in good daylight, from 20 metres.

You might have been able to do this when you were taking your driving test at the age of 17, but when was the last time you tested to see if you could still do it?

If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must wear them at all times when driving, and the Association of Optometrists also suggests that drivers have an eye test every 10 years. 

Testing your brakes after driving through water

Rule 121 is one that all UK drivers could all do with remembering.

Our roads are frequently blighted by puddles and standing water after rain, which means that our car’s brakes get wet, which can limit their performance.

The best remedy is to just gently use the brakes, if it's safe to do so, after driving through water. This will dry the brakes out and allow them to be as effective as possible.

Learn more about road safety: