The Art of Motoring – UK Style

The United Kingdom leads the world in motoring. We have the roadest roads in the developed world, with all cars and lorries and that; and also buses, upon which are wheels that go round and round. Round and round. Round and round. Except when they’re stuck in traffic, which is often, because we’ve worked hard to ensure that our congestion is amongst the most extensive and detailed in Europe.

We have signs and stuff. The signs tell us things. It’s all very sophisticated.

But our advanced road network can be a maze, nay, a labyrinth, to those coming to our fair isles for the first time; so here I present a basic guide on how to Drive Like A Brit. (Please note, I’m aiming this primarily at the car driver. Lorries, motorcycles, armoured presidential limos and Popemobiles have their own specific operating procedures that I may cover in more specialist posts in the future.)

First, and most importantly, Know Your Car.

COMPONENTS:

Most of the components of your vehicle will operate and be operated much the same way here as in any other country. Windscreen wipers, for example, are generally employed on British roads for wiping the windscreen. Wheels generally serve to roll the road along under the vehicle to provide the illusion of subjective movement. And the boot remains the best place to store spare wheel, Jack, Kyle, coats and boxes, a small football, carrier bags you really are going to empty out as soon as you get a minute, three empty Coke cans and an inexplicable pillow you don’t remember putting in there. Was it for the cat, or something? Why would you put the cat in the boot? She’s got a carrying basket.

But there are some subtle differences in function for some vehicle components in use in Britain.

Indicators: Used elsewhere to ‘indicate’ the driver’s intention to turn the vehicle to one side or the other. For that purpose, UK drivers prefer to rely on more traditional methods such as ‘the Force’, or ‘the bird’. In this country, indicators are specifically used in their hazard setting to ‘indicate’ to police and parking enforcement officers that the vehicle should not be given a ticket for parking on a pavement or yellow lines, because the driver has a good reason for doing it and will be back in a bit.

Horn: In other countries, the vehicle’s horn is functionally limited to the mere production of loud noise. Here, however, vehicular engineering has been able to adapt the device to serve as a navigational deflector of sorts: in the event of an impending collision, an extended sounding of the horn will effectively clear any conflicting vehicles from the road ahead, ensuring your safe and punctual arrival at your meeting.

Of course, you should also Know The Roads.

SIGNS:

Traffic Lights

Britain operates a three-colour traffic light system at junctions and some crossings.

These can be deceptive to drivers used to similar systems at home, and you should take care to note the specific British meanings employed:

GREEN: This means ‘go’. You may proceed across the junction or crossing without fear of conflicting traffic. A green light represents an assurance from the government that nothing will obstruct your passage.

AMBER (YELLOW): This means ‘go quickly’. You should proceed ahead as fast as possible, as a red light is about to show and you may be significantly inconvenienced.

RED: This means ‘go very slowly’. A red light can indicate that other drivers approaching from the sides may behave unreasonably by attempting to cross your path or otherwise obstruct you. Under such circumstances the government abandons its responsibility to keep you safe. You should therefore proceed at a slow speed – keeping a careful watch on your instruments, including your in-car sound system, GPS and/or mobile phone – until you are at least one or two car lengths past the line, in order to maximise your prominence in other drivers’ fields of view. EXEMPTION: If you are approaching a red light as the last in a line of vehicles, you may pass through at high speed because it takes a few seconds for the lights to turn green on the other road.

RED and AMBER (YELLOW): This means ‘go’. Should the vehicle in front of you remain stationary or at slow speed during this phase, it is your duty to ensure the smooth flow of traffic by issuing a verbal rebuke and employing your horn to move the offending vehicle.

Other Signs

As you honk, gesticulate, rev and creep your way around our road network like you were born to it, you may notice a wide range of other signs, prominent in red, black and white. These mean stuff to those who are interested in that sort of thing, but by and large, you know where you want to go. And it’s not like the signs can, like, reach out and grab your car and make you do stuff, is it? So, you know, you just do your thing. You’ll figure it out as you go. Oh, you might want to watch the ones that look like weird S-shaped bendy lines, though – they generally mean a sharp corner’s coming up, so be ready to hit it at speed and make “screeeeeeeee” noises like sliding tyres in American action movies.

Do not try to figure out what exactly happened to the wheels of that car.
It’s Britain. Things work differently here.

Also, the red ones that look like a 20p piece but with STOP written on them: they’re STOP signs. Yes, I know it’s a bloody liberty expecting a British motorist to stop when, look, everyone can see the road’s perfectly clear. But it’s government irresponsibility again: they just don’t think these things through, and then they expect us to just wear it when some idiot runs into the side of us as we come out of the junction, like they weren’t even looking. And then it’s us that get fined, isn’t it? It’s all just a government plot to make money, victimising the Poor Innocent Motorist yet again. Well if our councils would just design the roads properly in the first place we wouldn’t have these problems, would we? But oh no, they’re more interested in pandering to lily-livered, solar-guzzling eco-cycling bean terrorists, honestly I don’t know what I pay my taxes for really I don’t it’s like we lost the war Great Britain hah don’t make me laugh Dear Daily Mail today I went to my nearby locally owned traditional British public house with real ale and imagine my horror when

Ahem.

Anyway, this concludes our initial lesson on How To Motor In Blighty. We hope you have found it instructive and will join us again for Part 2: ‘Roundabouts And How To Win Them’.

“Bring it.”
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