Surprises in the Highway Code: what don’t you know?

That stalwart of British history, and the bane of all learner drivers, The Highway Code is 84 years young this year. A mere 145 pages of instruction indicates just how much stuff twenty-first century drivers have to deal with – compare that to the slimline 18 pages on its launch in 1931. But how familiar are you with some of today’s rules?

Lights, action!

Let’s start with signalling. Rules about avoiding dazzling drivers, pedestrians and, oh yes, horse riders with your lights are listed at number 114. Did you know for example that not only does this apply to turning off your fog lights when no longer needed, but also to the brake lights? These are to be avoided in stationary queues of traffic. Drivers are instead to use the parking brake. Hmmm. How many of us are doing that?

And here’s a good one. Rule 103 reminds us: “remember that signalling does not give you priority.” So don’t assume someone will let you into a lane just because you’ve indicated you want to move across!

Lane discipline

Now this one shouldn’t be a surprise, but something tells us it could be often ignored. Rule 138 says “on a three-lane dual carriageway, you may use the middle lane or the right-hand lane to overtake but return to the middle and then the left-hand lane when it is safe.” Self-explanatory – but how many of us cruise in the overtaking lane?

Rule 155 is crucial, explaining that single-track roads are only wide enough for one vehicle. Phew, good job they told us that.

Driver behaviour

Here’s a good one that might be useful for young racers. “Do not treat speed limits as a target.” It’s there in black and white. It’s rule 146. Honest.

And in the same vein, another little cluster in the next rule, “be considerate.” This includes specific instructions to be patient and try and be understanding if road users are causing problems. Drivers are told to avoid becoming agitated if someone is behaving badly on the road, and not to over-react by driving too close behind to intimidate them. Do you think some people might not have read this one?


But how can drivers be patient when they have so much to do? They often need to plug in their phone or change a CD to keep their music pounding out, inbetween grabbing a sandwich, followed by a smoke. To say nothing of reading the map whilst driving.

Well, surprise, surprise: these are all listed by rule 148 as distractions to be avoided because safe driving needs concentration. To say nothing of avoiding arguing with passengers or other road users. Yes, it says that too.

Road markings and cat’s eyes

We all know rule 129, don’t we? We must not cross double white lines in the middle of the road where the nearest to us is solid. But were you aware that you can cross if necessary to pass vehicles travelling at 10mph or less? Permission to overtake that horse, sir, that stroppy cyclist or road maintenance vehicle. Hurrah, there is justice on the road!

Do you know your road studs? It can be tricky. Rule 132 says: white studs mark the lanes or middle of the road; amber studs mark the central reservation; red studs are for the left edge of the road. Unless of course there’s a lay-by or slip road, in which case the left edge has green studs. Sure, of course. Oh, but wait – then green, or yellow studs are used to mark temporary adjustments to lane layouts – think road works. Not sure what happens if there’s an ‘r’ in the month.


Here’s one for delivery drivers. Rule 123 says “you must not leave a parked vehicle unattended with the engine running or leave a vehicle engine running unnecessarily while that vehicle is stationary on a public road.” We’re guessing that usually, people avoid this anyway to stop someone jumping in their vehicle and driving off.

Here’s another that seems to have passed a few of us by. Rule 126 on stopping distances tells us “if you have to stop in a tunnel, leave at least a 5-metre gap between you and the vehicle in front.” But this could get difficult if you’re driving very slowly nose-to-tail before a stop is necessitated. Any thoughts from Blackwall Tunnel users?

Knowing your Highway Code

With so much stuff to get on top of, it’s no wonder that some learner drivers wrestle with passing their theory test. One woman from South London has failed hers just 113 times. Better luck next time – we hope some of these tips will help.

Are there any unusual road rules you know of, or have discovered as you’ve done your test? Tell us about them on Facebook or Twitter!