So, how would you fair in a theory test? - 24th August 2015

For many drivers theory test training was probably a quick glance at the Highway Code the night before their driving test and after stumbling through the few questions an examiner asked at the end of it, have done nothing since. New drivers, of course, have to go through the process of passing a separate theory and hazard perception test before being allowed to take a practical test, which should mean they have better theory knowledge. However, surveys that frequently seem to be conducted generally report drivers that have a lack of theory knowledge, and surprisingly new drivers are among those with the least knowledge.

Most of what is in the highway code is probably learned by drivers through exposure to the roads and experience and although they ‘get by’ on that knowledge, being put under the spotlight is a different proposition and knowing what the shape of the sign is actually telling us is apparently confusing. We all know what a junction is and have knowledge of what we should do when we get there, and the fact that many crashes happen at junctions is not, I believe, a lack of knowledge so much as a lack of thought, preparation and certainly effective observation and judgement. There is, on the other hand, a need to know certain things that road layout, markings and signs that we learn to deal with by rote, don’t tell us and therefore, ignorance of the rules in the Highway Code can get you into trouble.

A typical example are rules about speed limits, which have been in the Highway Code for longer than the vast majority of drivers have held a licence, and in fact before most were even born, yet a great many don’t know them. Having previously had an involvement in the running of Speed Awareness Courses it was clear that the majority of drivers couldn’t identify how to tell the speed limit of the road they were on. This probably contributed, along with all the other excuses, to why they found themselves on the course. The basic rules are very simple and no driver should ever get caught out by lack of knowledge. The only other reason for getting caught speeding is by making a personal choice not to obey the law. If you choose that route then you also have to accept the consequences which go with it which could be anything from a fine and points up to imprisonment depending on your luck on the day.

So to the rules, so there are no more ‘I didn’t realise that’ excuses:
  • If there is a system of street lights along the road you are travelling, the speed limit will be 30 mph, unless, there are small repeater signs placed on the street lights (about every 5th or 6th street light as an approximate guide) telling you something different , i.e., it is 40mph, 50mph or national speed limit.
  • If you are in a 20mph zone you will generally see either repeater signs, traffic calming measures, 20mph painted at intervals on the road, coloured paint on the road, in fact anything that appears to be shouting out messages to you that this is a potentially hazardous place.
  • If there are no street lights along the road you are travelling, the speed limit is national speed limit, unless, there are repeater signs posted regularly to tell you something different, i.e. 30mph, 40mph or 50mph.
Those are the basic speed limit rules, however, the national speed limit (white circle with a black diagonal line through it) will differ depending on the road type and, which brings us on to the next rule that is widely unknown by drivers but is also in the Highway Code, the type of vehicle you are driving, as follows:
  • A single carriageway road, or two way traffic as some may refer to it, has vehicles travelling in different directions only separated by a white line. There may be one or more lanes travelling in each direction but it is still a single carriageway if there is only a white line dividing traffic from opposing directions. For cars and motorcycles this would be a 60mph speed limit (50mph if towing a trailer). Vans over 2 tonnes, classified as goods vehicles, and goods vehicles  up to 7.5tonnes, are restricted to a speed limit of 50mph (yes that’s delivery vans, parcel vans, builders vans etc. like the ones that all overtook you today!). Lorries (over 7.5tonnes), buses, coaches and minibuses are also restricted to 50mph on single carriageway roads (different speed limits may apply if towing).
  • A dual carriageway is separated by a physical divide between the opposing traffic, which may be grass, trees, a hedge, a wall or, an Armco barrier. Providing there is something between the traffic travelling north and the traffic travelling south (it could be east or west) other than a white line, you are on a dual carriageway. The road you are on may have one or more lanes as could the road going in the other direction, this does not affect whether it is a dual carriageway, the central divider does.  On a dual carriageway where the national speed limit applies (if it is not national speed limit it will be posted with repeater plates, or street lights, or both) cars and motorcycles are allowed to do 70mph (if towing a trailer 60mph). Vans over 2tonnes, lorries, buses, minibuses and coaches can do 60mph (different speed limits may apply if towing).
  • Motorways are national speed limit roads, unless signs tell you otherwise, where the speed limit for cars and motorcycles is 70mph (if towing a trailer 60mph). Vans over 2tonnes and up to 7.5tonnes (goods vehicles), buses, minibuses and coaches can do 70 mph (different speed limits may apply if towing), however, lorries over 7.5tonnes have a 60mph limit.
If you cross the border into Scotland be careful as different rules apply regarding speed limits, specifically with large vehicles, so check before you go.
Organisations should ensure that a duty of care to all employees under health and safety legislation is being met, which includes its drivers. Fleetrisk24 can help you protect your organisation and meet health and safety obligations. Visit our website to see how we can help you, and take advantage of our free fleet safety health check to see if your management processes are meeting up to date Health and Safety Executive requirements.
As a professional driver, which anyone driving on behalf of their employer is, regardless of your job title, it is of paramount importance that you have a full understanding of the rules of the road. This should also form part of your employers’ policies, and therefore, you have a responsibility to ensure you drive as a professional driver when representing the organisation. Failure to do so may attract stronger penalties for both driver and employer than for private drivers.

Many issues that feature in our news section may be of concern to you as an employer if you employ company drivers. It is important that you, as a company, are fully compliant with your responsibilities to those employees.

Fleetrisk24 Ltd specialises in Work Related Road Safety and Workplace Transport Safety and can help you put policies and processes in place to address your transport health and safety requirements.

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