New User?
Sign Up Here!

Highway Code

1. Choosing and maintaining your bicycle

Choosing and maintaining your bicycle logo

Make sure that

  • you choose the right size of cycle for comfort and safety
  • lights and reflectors are kept clean and in good working order
  • tyres are in good condition and inflated to the pressure shown on the tyre
  • gears are working correctly
  • the chain is properly adjusted and oiled
  • the saddle and handlebars are adjusted to the correct height.
  • ensure your brakes are efficient
  • at night, use lit front and rear lights and have an efficient red rear reflector.
    PCUR regs 6 & 10 & RVLR no 18

2. Motorcycle licence requirements

Motorcycle licence requirements logo

If you have a provisional motorcycle licence, you MUST satisfactorily complete a Compulsory Basic Training (CBT) course. You can then ride on the public road, with L plates(in Wales either D plates, L plates or both can be used), for up to two years. To obtain your full motorcycle licence you MUST pass a motorcycle theory test and then a practical test.
Law RTA 1988 sect 97

If you have a full car licence you may ride motorcycles up to 125cc and 11kW power output, with L plates (and/or D plates in Wales), on public roads, but you MUST first satisfactorily complete a CBT course if you have not already done so.

If you have a full moped licence and wish to obtain full motorcycle entitlement you will be required to take a motorcycle theory test if you did not take a separate theory test when you obtained your moped licence. You MUST then pass a practical motorcycle test.

Note that if CBT was completed for the full moped licence there is no need to repeat it, but if the moped test was taken before 1/12/90 CBT will need to be completed before riding a motorcycle as a learner.
Law MV(DL)R reg 42(1) & 69(1)

Light motorcycle licence (A1): you take a test on a motorcycle of between 75 and 125cc. If you pass you may ride a motorcycle up to 125cc with power output up to 11kW.

Standard motorcycle licence (A): if your test vehicle is between 120 and 125cc and capable of more than 100 km/h you will be given a standard (A) licence. You will then be restricted to motorcycles of up to 25 kW for two years. After two years you may ride any size machine.

Direct or Accelerated Access enables riders over the age of 21, or those who reach 21 before their two-year restriction ends, to ride larger motorcycles sooner. To obtain a licence to do so they are required to

  • have successfully completed a CBT course
  • pass a theory test, if they are required to do so
  • pass a practical test on a machine with power output of at least 35kW.

To practice, they can ride larger motorcycles, with L plates (and/or D plates in Wales), on public roads, but only when accompanied by an approved instructor on another motorcycle in radio contact.

You MUST NOT carry a pillion passenger or pull a trailer until you have passed your test.
Law MV(DL)R reg 16

Moped Licence Requirements
Mopeds are up to 50cc with a maximum speed of 50 km/h.

To ride a moped, learners MUST

  • be 16 or over
  • have a provisional moped licence
  • complete CBT training.

You MUST first pass the theory test for motorcycles and then the moped practical test to obtain your full moped licence.

If you passed your driving test before 1 February 2001 you are qualified to ride a moped without L plates (and/or D plates in Wales), although it is recommended that you complete CBT before riding on the road. If you passed your driving test after this date you MUST complete CBT before riding a moped on the road.
Laws MV(DL)R reg 43

Note. For motorcycle and moped riders wishing to upgrade, the following give exemption from taking the motorcycle theory test

  • full A1 motorcycle licence
  • full moped licence, if gained after 1/7/96.
    Laws MV(DL)R reg 42

3. Motor vehicle documentation and learner driver requirements

Motor vehicle documentation and learner driver requirements logo


Driving Licence. You MUST have a valid signed driving licence for the category of vehicle you are driving. You MUST inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you change your name and address.
Law RTA 1988 sect 87

Insurance. You MUST have a valid insurance certificate covering you for third party liability. Before driving any vehicle, make sure that it has this cover for your use or that your own insurance gives you adequate cover. You MUST NOT drive a vehicle without insurance.
Law RTA 1988 sect 143

MOT. Cars and motorcycles MUST normally pass an MOT test three years from the date of the first registration and every year after that. You MUST NOT drive a vehicle without an MOT certificate, when it should have one. Driving an unroadworthy vehicle may invalidate your insurance. Exceptionally, you may drive to a pre-arranged test appointment or to a garage for repairs required for the test.
Law RTA 1988 sects 45, 47, 49 & 53

Vehicle Registration Document. Registration documents are issued for all motor vehicles used on the road, describing them (make, model, etc.) and giving details of the registered keeper.

You MUST notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea as soon as possible when you buy or sell a vehicle, or if you change your name or address. For registration documents issued after 27 March 1997 the buyer and seller are responsible for completing the registration documents. The seller is responsible for forwarding them to DVLA. The procedures are explained on the back of the registration documents.
Law RV(R&L)R regs 10, 12 & 13

Vehicle Excise Duty. All vehicles used or kept on the roads MUST have a valid Vehicle Excise Duty disc (tax disc) displayed at all times. Any vehicle exempt from duty MUST display a nil licence.
Law VERA sect 29

Production of documents. You MUST be able to produce your driving licence and counterpart, a valid insurance certificate and (if appropriate) a valid MOT certificate, when requested by a police officer. If you cannot do this you may be asked to take them to a police station within seven days.
Law RTA 1988 sects 164 & 165

Learner drivers

Learners driving a car MUST hold a valid provisional licence. They MUST be supervised by someone at least 21 years old who holds a full EC/EEA licence for that type of car (automatic or manual) and has held one for at least three years.
Law MV(DL)R reg 16

Vehicles. Any vehicle driven by a learner MUST display red L plates. In Wales, either red D plates, red L plates, or both, can be used. Plates MUST conform to legal specifications and MUST be clearly visible to others from in front of the vehicle and from behind. Plates should be removed or covered when not being driven by a learner (except on driving school vehicles).
Law MV(DL)R reg 16 & sched 4

You MUST pass the theory test (if one is required) and then a practical driving test for the category of vehicle you wish to drive before driving unaccompanied.
Law MV(DL)R reg 40

4. The road user and the law

The road user and the law logo

Road traffic law

The following list can be found abbreviated throughout the Code. It is not intended to be a comprehensive guide, but a guide to some of the important points of law. For the precise wording of the law, please refer to the various Acts and Regulations (as amended) indicated in the Code. Abbreviations are listed below.

Most of the provisions apply on all roads throughout Great Britain, although there are some exceptions. The definition of a road in England and Wales is 'any highway and any other road to which the public has access and includes bridges over which a road passes'. In Scotland, there is a similar definition which is extended to include any way over which the public have a right of passage. It is important to note that references to 'road' therefore generally include footpaths, bridle-ways and cycle tracks and many roadways and driveways on private land (including many car parks). In most cases, the law will apply to them and there may be additional rules for particular paths or ways. Some serious driving offences, including drink-driving offences, also apply to all public places, for example public car parks.

Chronically Sick & Disabled Persons Act 1970 CSDPA
Functions of Traffic Wardens Order 1970 FTWO
Highway Act 1835 or 1980 (as indicated) HA
Horses (Protective Headgear for Young Riders) Regulations 1992 H(PHYR)R
Motor Cycles (Protective Helmets) Regulations 1980 MC(PH)R
Motorways Traffic (England & Wales) Regulations 1982 MT(E&W)R
Motorways Traffic (Scotland) Regulations 1995 MT(S)R
Motor Vehicles (Driving Licences) Regulations 1999 MV(DL)R
Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts) Regulations 1993 MV(WSB)R
Motor Vehicles (Wearing of Seat Belts by Children in Front Seats) Regulations 1993 MV(WSBCFS)R
Pedal Cycles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1983 PCUR
Public Passenger Vehicles Act 1981 PPVA
Road Traffic Act 1988 or 1991 (as indicated) RTA
Road Traffic (New Drivers) Act 1995 RT(ND)A
Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 RTRA
Road Vehicles (Construction & Use) Regulations 1986 CUR
Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 RVLR
Road Vehicles (Registration & Licensing) Regulations 1971 RV(R&L)R
Roads (Scotland) Act 1984 R(S)A
Traffic Signs Regulations & General Directions 2002 TSRGD
Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994 VERA
Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997 ZPPPCRGD

5. Penalties

Parliament has set the maximum penalties for road traffic offences. The seriousness of the offence is reflected in the maximum penalty. It is for the courts to decide what sentence to impose according to circumstances.

The penalty table indicates some of the main offences, and the associated penalties. There is a wide range of other more specific offences which, for the sake of simplicity, are not shown here.

The penalty points and disqualification system is described below.

Penalty points and disqualification

The penalty point system is intended to deter drivers from following unsafe driving practices. The court MUST order points to be endorsed on the licence according to the fixed number or the range set by Parliament. The accumulation of penalty points acts as a warning to drivers that they risk disqualification if further offences are committed.

A driver who accumulates 12 or more penalty points within a three year period must be disqualified. This will be for a minimum period of six months, or longer if the driver has previously been disqualified.

For every offence which carries penalty points the court has a discretionary power to order the licence holder to be disqualified. This may be for any period the court thinks fit, but will usually be between a week and a few months.

In the case of serious offences, such as dangerous driving and drink-driving, the court MUST order disqualification. The minimum period is 12 months, but for repeat offenders or where the alcohol level is high, it may be longer. For example, a second drink-drive offence in the space of 10 years will result in a minimum of three years' disqualification.

Furthermore, in some serious cases, the court MUST (in addition to imposing a fixed period of disqualification) order the offender to be disqualified until they pass a driving test. In other cases the court has a discretionary power to order such disqualification. The test may be an ordinary length test or an extended test according to the nature of the offence.
Laws RTRA sects.28,29,34,35 and 36

Penalty table

Offence Maximum penalties
Orange rule
Orange rule
*Causing death by dangerous driving 10 years Unlimited Obligatory-2 years minimum 3-11 (if exceptionally not disqualified)
Orange rule
*Dangerous driving 2 years Unlimited Obligatory 3-11 (if exceptionally not disqualified)
Orange rule
Causing death by careless driving under the influence of drink or drugs 10 years Unlimited Obligatory-2 years minimum 3-11 (if exceptionally not disqualified)
Orange rule
Careless or inconsiderate driving   £2,500 Discretionary 3-9
Orange rule
Driving while unfit through drink or drugs or with excess alcohol; or failing to provide a specimen for analysis 6 months £5,000 Obligatory 3-11 (if exceptionally not disqualified)
Orange rule
Failing to stop after an accident or failing to report an accident 6 months £5,000 Discretionary 5-10
Orange rule
Driving when disqualified 6 months (12 months in Scotland) £5,000 Discretionary 6
Orange rule
Driving after refusal or revocation of licence on medical grounds 6 months £5,000 Discretionary 3-6
Orange rule
Driving without insurance   £5,000 Discretionary 6-8
Orange rule
Driving otherwise than in accordance with a licence   £1,000 Discretionary 3-6
Orange rule
Speeding   £1,000 (2,500 for motorway offences) Discretionary 3-6 or 3 (fixed penalty)
Orange rule
Traffic light offences   £1,000 Discretionary 3
Orange rule
No MOT certificate   £1,000    
Orange rule
Seat belt offences   £500    
Orange rule
Dangerous cycling   £2,500    
Orange rule
Careless cycling   £1,000    
Orange rule
Cycling on pavement   £500    
Orange rule
Failing to identify driver of a vehicle   £1,000 Discretionary 3
Orange rule
* Where a court disqualifies a person on conviction for one of these offences, it must order an extended retest. The courts also have discretion to order a retest for any other offence which carries penalty points: an extended retest where disqualification is obligatory, and an ordinary test where disqualification is not obligatory.

New drivers. Special rules apply to drivers within two years of the date of passing their driving test if they passed the test after 1 June 1997 and held nothing but a provisional (learner) licence before passing the test. If the number of penalty points on their licence reaches six or more as a result of offences they commit before the two years are over (including any they committed before they passed the test), their licence will be revoked. They must then reapply for a provisional licence and may drive only as learners until they pass a theory and practical driving test.

Note. This applies even if they pay by fixed penalty. Drivers who already have a full licence for one type of vehicle are not affected by this when they pass a test to drive another type.

Other consequences of offending

Where an offence is punishable by imprisonment then the vehicle used to commit the offence may be confiscated.

In addition to the penalties a court may decide to impose, the cost of insurance is likely to rise considerably following conviction for a serious driving offence. This is because insurance companies consider such drivers are more likely to have an accident.

Drivers disqualified for drinking and driving twice within 10 years, or once if they are over two and a half times the legal limit, or those who refused to give a specimen, also have to satisfy the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency's Medical Branch that they do not have an alcohol problem and are otherwise fit to drive before their licence is returned at the end of their period of disqualification. Persistent misuse of drugs or alcohol may lead to the withdrawal of a driving licence.

6. Vehicle maintainance, safety and security

Vehicle maintainance, safety and security logo

Vehicle maintenance

Take special care that lights, brakes, steering, exhaust system, seat belts, demisters, wipers and washers are all working. Also

  • lights, indicators, reflectors, and number plates MUST be kept clean and clear
  • windscreens and windows MUST be kept clean and free from obstructions to vision
  • lights MUST be properly adjusted to prevent dazzling other road users. Extra attention needs to be paid to this if the vehicle is heavily loaded
  • exhaust emissions MUST NOT exceed prescribed levels
  • ensure your seat, seat belt, head restraint and mirrors are adjusted correctly before you drive
  • items of luggage are securely stowed.
    Law: many regulations within CUR cover the above equipment and RVLR regs 23 & 27

Warning displays

Make sure that you understand the meaning of all warning displays on the vehicle instrument panel. Do not ignore warning signs, they could indicate a dangerous fault developing.

  • When you turn the ignition key, warning lights will be illuminated but will go out when the engine starts (except the handbrake warning light). If they do not, or if they come on whilst you are driving, stop and investigate the problem, as you could have a serious fault.
  • If the charge warning light comes on while you are driving, it may mean that the battery isn't charging. This must also be checked as soon as possible to avoid loss of power to lights and other electrical systems.


Tyres MUST be correctly inflated and be free from certain cuts and other defects.

Cars, light vans and light trailers MUST have a tread depth of at least 1.6mm across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and around the entire circumference.

Motorcycles, large vehicles and passenger carrying vehicles MUST have a tread depth of at least 1mm across three-quarters of the breadth of the tread and in a continuous band around the entire circumference.

Mopeds should have visible tread.
Laws CUR reg 27

If a tyre bursts while you are driving, try to keep control of your vehicle. Grip the steering wheel firmly and allow the vehicle to roll to a stop at the side of the road.

If you have a flat tyre, stop as soon as it is safe to do so. Only change the tyre if you can do so without putting yourself or others at risk - otherwise call a breakdown service.

Tyre pressures. Check weekly. Do this before your journey, when tyres are cold. Warm or hot tyres may give a misleading reading.

Your brakes and steering will be adversely affected by under-inflated or over-inflated tyres. Excessive or uneven tyre wear may be caused by faults in the braking or suspension systems, or wheels which are out of alignment. Have these faults corrected as soon as possible.

Fluid levels

Check the fluid levels in your vehicle at least weekly. Low brake fluid may result in brake failure and an accident. Make sure you recognise the low fluid warning lights if your vehicle has them fitted.

Before winter

Ensure that the battery is well maintained and that there are appropriate anti-freeze agents in your radiator and windscreen bottle.

Other problems

If your vehicle

  • pulls to one side when braking, it is most likely to be a brake fault or incorrectly inflated tyres. Consult a garage or mechanic immediately
  • continues to bounce after pushing down on the front or rear, its shock absorbers are worn. Worn shock absorbers can seriously affect the operation of a vehicle and should be replaced
  • smells of anything unusual such as burning rubber, petrol or electrical; investigate immediately. Do not risk a fire.

Overheated engines or fire

Most engines are water cooled. If your engine overheats you should wait until it has cooled naturally. Only then remove the coolant filler cap and add water or other coolant.

If your vehicle catches fire, get the occupants out of the vehicle quickly and to a safe place. Do not attempt to extinguish a fire in the engine compartment, as opening the bonnet will make the fire flare. Call the fire brigade.

Petrol stations

Never smoke or use a mobile phone on the forecourt of petrol stations as these are major fire risks and could cause an explosion.

Vehicle security

When you leave your vehicle you should

  • remove the ignition key and engage the steering lock
  • lock the car, even if you only leave it for a few minutes
  • close the windows completely
  • never leave children or pets in an unventilated car
  • take all contents with you, or lock them in the boot.

Remember, for all a thief knows a carrier bag may contain valuables. Never leave vehicle documents in the car.

For extra security fit an anti-theft device such as an alarm or immobiliser. If you are buying a new car it is a good idea to check the level of built-in security features. Consider having your registration number etched on all your car windows. This is a cheap and effective deterrent to professional thieves.

7. First aid on the road

First aid on the road logo

In the event of an accident, you can do a number of things to help, even if you have had no training

1. Deal with danger
Further collisions and fire are the main dangers following an accident. Approach any vehicle involved with care. Switch off all engines and, if possible, warn other traffic. Stop anyone from smoking.

2. Get help
Try to get the assistance of bystanders. Get someone to call the appropriate emergency services as soon as possible. They will need to know the exact location of the accident and the number of vehicles involved.

3. Help those involved
DO NOT move casualties still in vehicles unless further danger is threatened. DO NOT remove a motorcyclist's helmet unless it is essential. DO NOT give the casualty anything to eat or drink. DO try to make them comfortable and prevent them from getting cold, but avoid unnecessary movement. DO give reassurance confidently to the casualty. They may be shocked but prompt treatment will minimise this.

4. Provide emergency care Follow the ABC of First aid

A is for Airway - check for and relieve any obstruction to breathing. Remove any obvious obstruction in the mouth. Breathing may begin and colour improve.

B is for Breathing - if breathing does not begin when the airway has been cleared, lift the chin and tilt the head very gently backwards. Pinch the casualty's nostrils and blow into the mouth until the chest rises; withdraw, then repeat regularly once every four seconds until the casualty can breathe unaided.

C is for Circulation - prevent blood loss to maintain circulation. If bleeding is present apply firm hand pressure over the wound, preferably using some clean material, without pressing on any foreign body in the wound. Secure a pad with a bandage or length of cloth. Raise the limb to lessen the bleeding, provided it is not broken.

5. Be prepared
Always carry a first aid kit. You could save a life by learning emergency aid and first aid from a qualified organisation, such as the local ambulance services, the St John Ambulance Association and Brigade, St Andrew's Ambulance Association, the British Red Cross or any suitable qualified body.


Click this to go back to the previous page.
Back Up To Contents