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Lesson Plan 9 - Progress - Main Roads

Driving at an appropriate speed

Max speed
Circular signs give orders – where there is a red circle around a speed limit, this is the maximum legal speed allowed. On main roads 30mph is safe whilst clear of hazards and when you do not have poor weather conditions. Minor roads, which are the majority, are 30mph zones are more likely to be unsafe to drive at the maximum!

Take into account conditions on each individual road. The quieter the road, the more likely you are to encounter hazards such as parked cars, pedestrians including children possibly at play. Take extra care when passing schools, shops etc. Speed bumps are designed to slow the traffic down in areas where traffic may otherwise drive too fast. Traffic calming measures are designed to slow traffic down.

See “Meeting Traffic”.

Min speed
A speed limit with a blue background will be the minimum safe speed allowed (if clear).
Recommended speed
Rectangular signs inform – this sign is a recommended speed – not an order. (However it may not be safe to continue at the maximum speed that applied to the road you are on).

Speed restrictionsThe higher the speed limit then you will find the road is more of a main route and clear of houses, shops, schools etc. With having far fewer hazards then it is safer and appropriate to make progress (often on a straight road this would be maximum speed) as long as the road is clear and again you are not driving in poor weather. Look further ahead for hazards on faster roads so you can be ready to reduce your speed accordingly and keep a safe distance. (see below)

Keep a safe following distance

Safe Following Distance

When the vehicle ahead passes a stationary object (here the warning sign) keep 2 seconds apart.

“Only a fool would break the 2 second rule”

If you have time to say this before you pass the same object then you will be at a safe distance. You will need to increase this in poor weather. Keeping a safe distance will not only ensure a safe stopping distance if needed, but will give you a clearer view of the road ahead – making it easier to identify hazards.

National Speed Limit
National speed limit applies
Single lane = 60mph – maximum speed (but not a target!)
Dual carriageway = 70mph – maximum speed (but not a target!)

Note: To be classed as a dual carriageway there would need to be a central reservation/barrier otherwise the 60mph maximum would apply.
(Where you have two lanes but no central reservation/barrier – this is normally to give priority to traffic going uphill and will turn back into a single lane road so make sure if you are overtaking you have enough time to do so before the road turns back into single lane).

Look out for speed limits – check mirrors well before change of speed or direction

You will have the new limit sign on both sides of the road you are on or you are entering.
If you have a speed limit sign on just one side of the road – this is normally smaller and a reminder of the existing speed limit of the road you are on.

You must make sure when the speed limit reduces i.e. coming out of a national speed limit road which may turn to 30mph limit that you are not going over 30mph when you pass the sign.

You must also make sure where speed limit increases that you wait until you pass the sign before speeding up.

Note: After travelling on a fast road you would need to keep an eye on your speed, as it is easier to be travelling faster than you think you are.
6 penalty points in the first 2 years of passing your test will result in needing to re-take both the theory and practical tests.

National Speed Limit Roads

Even when national speed limit roads are clear it is not always safe or appropriate to drive at the maximum speed – a very high percentage of all road fatalities occur on country roads. It will only be safe to travel at the maximum speed when you have a clear stretch of road. These roads often have sharp bends – could be narrow and sometimes hilly.

The roads are often not lit and have no pavements and it is likely you may come across pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders etc. National speed limits are normally in rural areas therefore farm vehicles and animals are more likely to be present. Take extra care overtaking and watch your speed and position around the bends.

National Speed Limit

Sharp change of direction chevrons

Used where the road changes direction sharply enough to create a hazard or to reinforce a bend warning sign where stronger emphasis is needed.


Approaching a bend

Check your mirrors well before slowing down – the sharper the bend the slower the speed (your speed should be at the lowest before you turn and you will often need a low gear). Keeping on the gas to maintain speed around the bend will help maintain control and position as the wheels will grip the road as you do so.

Left hand bend

Position to the centre of your lane, but do not move over too close to the centre of the road which could put you too close to oncoming traffic who may take the bend wide.

On approaching a bend ask yourself…

  • Can I see the full picture?
  • How sharp is the bend?
  • Am I in the correct road position?
  • Am I at a safe speed/gear?
  • What might I meet?
  • Could I stop if necessary?
Left hand bend

Right hand bend

Position to the left of your lane to improve your view but do not let a clearer view tempt you to take the bend too fast.

Right hand bend



Considerations for overtaking (single track roads)

Overtaking can put you on collision course with an oncoming vehicle so as a result is one of the major causes of accidents, therefore it makes sense to be very careful when deciding to overtake.

Before overtaking you need to consider:

Q: Why is the vehicle you would like to pass going so slow in the first place?
A: Maybe there is a hazard ahead – they may intend to turn off or park.

Q: Are you going to gain much?
A: There would be no point in overtaking someone if you are about to turn off shortly afterwards or that to do so will only be leaving you behind a queue of other slow moving traffic.

Q: Is it legal?
A: Make sure overtaking does not cause you to go over the legal speed limit. Make sure you do not cross solid white lines (unless what you are passing is travelling less than 10mph).

Do not overtake where you have a no overtaking sign!

Q: Is it safe?
A: You will need to see a clear stretch of road ahead for oncoming traffic and be aware of any hazards, therefore do not overtake on or approaching a bend, on the brow of a hill, where road narrows ahead etc., do not overtake where you have hazards such as junctions, pedestrian crossings, traffic lights etc.

Example of how to get caught out!

Following a slow moving vehicle you may be able to see a clear stretch of road ahead and see there is no oncoming traffic in sight, therefore decide to overtake.
You may not have spotted or taken into account the warning sign for a junction on the left.

What might happen!

There may be a vehicle emerging out of the junction turning right, who may well have time to pull out before the slow moving vehicle.
This would put you both on a collision course!


Steps to overtaking

There will become times when it is necessary to overtake slow moving vehicles as following traffic will want to make progress and if you are too cautious you will make the situation more hazardous as vehicles behind will then need to overtake both you and the vehicle ahead. You should follow the M-S-M routine possibly several times as explained below.

M-S-M Routine – preparing to overtake

Mirrors– always assess the speed and position of traffic behind (someone could easily be about to overtake you). You will need to check the interior mirror and right hand door mirror.

Signal– at this stage because you are only preparing to overtake do not apply signal until ready.

Position– be close enough to the vehicle you wish to overtake whilst allowing enough room to get a good view of the road ahead.

Speed– keep to the same speed as the vehicle ahead and consider changing down a gear for extra power to help pass briskly when you get a chance.

Look– asses the whole situation.

  • the road conditions
  • the intentions of the driver ahead
  • any hazards (look out for signs and road markings)
  • speed of oncoming traffic
  • assess the speed difference between yourself and oncoming traffic

As the situation can change you may need to keep following the above routine until you are 100% happy it is safe to overtake. If you are overtaking a cyclist give them plenty of room and where you are approaching horse riders slow down well in advance passing by without frightening the horses.

M-S-M Routine – when you overtake

Mirrors– re-assess the situation behind as well as interior and right door mirrors as you are about to overtake have a quick check for any blind spots (in case someone is in the process of overtaking you).

Signal– always apply signal when ready to overtake as this will help drivers behind, the person you are overtaking and any drivers coming towards you.

Manoeuvre– pull out on a smooth line overtaking as quickly as you can so that you can get back onto the correct side of the road as early as possible. Checking mirrors to make sure you are clear of the vehicle you are overtaking so that you do not cut them up.

  • For overtaking on dual carriageways / motorways view “Dual Carriageways” as there are slight differences overtaking on multi-lane roads compared to single lane roads.