Driving for beginners is as thrilling as it is intimidating. If you’re about to head out on the UK’s motorways for the first time, make sure you have all of the information in this guide under your belt.

Driving basics

There are some basics to driving in the UK that you may already know but that are important to revisit when considering your safety on the road.

  • You can begin driving in the UK at the age of 16 so long as another person in the car is a licensed driver.
  • You can hold a driver’s licence in the UK at 17.
  • If you’re looking to rent a car to practise in as a first-time driver, you’ll need to be at least 21, and you may face additional fees if you’re not over 25.
driving a car

Necessary driving skills

When you first get behind the wheel of a car, you’ll have to fight down your nerves and focus on the road ahead of you. The different skills you’ll need to properly operate a car in the UK include:

  • How to start your car safely – this is fairly easy, even as newer cars are phasing out old-fashioned key hobs. Check the make and model of your car, then proceed with either a touch pad hob or one that looks like a standard key.
  • The gears – are you driving a car with a manual gear shift or an automatic gear shift? Automatic cars require less concentration on your part, but manuals offer a greater sense of control while driving.
  • Fuel – do you have enough petrol in the tank?
  • Windshield wipers – do you know how to turn on your windshield wipers in the rain?
  • Lights – do your car lights turn on automatically, or will you have to turn them on yourself?
driving test

Planning your route

Before you head out in a car for the first time, you’re going to want to plan your route. The best way to do this is to note what kind of roads you’ll be driving on, which ones you’ll feel most comfortable on, and which ones will keep your route short but educational. You may have to try out different driving styles based on the route you choose to take.

M Roads

“M” roads are standard motorways, the largest roadways that you’ll be driving on so long as you remain within the UK. These motorways are typically made up of four lanes of traffic travelling each way, though you’ll more frequently see M roads with three lanes. These motorways have a set speed limit of 70 miles an hour, but you should keep an eye out for other drivers who may be speeding.

If you’re going a little bit slower than the posted speed limit on an M motorway – or on any motorway – be sure to stay in the left lane. Drivers in this lane will typically match your speeds and you won’t have to worry about anyone racing past you and compromising your driving safety.

M road

A Roads

“A” roads are the most common type of road you’ll find in the UK. These motorways typically have a speed limit of 60 miles an hour unless posted otherwise and will support two carriageways of traffic going in both directions. Do note that the speed limit on A roadways will vary, and you may find yourself prompted to go 70 miles an hour for a short stretch.

A roadways are among the best type of roads to drive on after you’ve already spent some time behind the wheel. They have enough traffic to keep you focused but enough challenge to put your driving skills to the test.

B Roads

“B” roadways are smaller roads that typically lead onto A roadways. These are among the best roads for a new driver to practice driving on. B roads will be shorter than A motorways, and their posted speed limits are significantly slower than those on A or M motorways.

C and D Roads

Finally, “C” and “D” class roads are the rural roads that you won’t likely encounter unless you actively look for them or live in a less populated area. If you’re feeling especially nervous about getting behind the wheel for the first time, these less-populated roads are ideal for beginning drivers.

UK driving test

Seeking outside help

Once you know what roads you’ll prefer to drive on, where you want to go, and how to start your car, you’re ready to head off to the races! If you’re feeling especially nervous, take a licensed friend with you on the road. You can even take a UK driving test prior to your first time out on the road alone. These tests not only ensure that you know how to drive a car but that you can identify street signs, different signals, and other motorway symbols.

Enjoying the ride

The best advice of all for a new driver is simply “don’t stress out.” No one was born a naturally good driver, and you’ll have a few rough starts before driving becomes second nature. Don’t give into the road rage! Embrace the learning experience, and you’ll find that you pick up all of driving’s tricks faster than you’d expect. Happy driving!