Theory Test Topics Explained: Rules Of The Road

Rules of the road featured image

Greetings, PassMeFast readers! If you’ve been carefully preparing for your theory test, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve put together yet another instalment in our Theory Test Topics Explained series just for you! We’re now on the tenth topic from the DVSA’s multiple-choice question bank: rules of the road.

We’re going to explain what this topic is all about and why it’s so important that you understand it. We’ll also share some example multiple-choice questions and case studies, and give you even more revision resources. Get the full lowdown below!

Table of contents: 

Theory Test Topic: Rules of the road

What are the rules of the road

The tenth topic from the multiple-choice section of the theory test is rules of the road. As you’d probably expect from the name, this is quite an important topic. In fact, it probably encompasses most of the knowledge that you will need when you finally get behind the wheel, including speed limits, designated lanes, positioning on the road and much more.

The theory test topic rules of the road covers quite a lot of ground, but it’s ground that you need to be familiar with in order to keep yourself and other road users safe. To make your learning journey a bit easier, we’ve split everything into smaller sections. Take your time going through each one, as we’ll be quizzing you at the end!

When it comes to revising for the theory test, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

✓ Speed limits

When you finally get behind the wheel, it will be your responsibility to make sure that you’re driving at a speed that matches the speed limit of the road you’re on. If you’re ever caught driving above the limit, you could end up with a fine, penalty points and even disqualification from driving!

Regardless of the speed limit in place, you need to use your own discretion when facing certain weather and road conditions. If the road is icy, for example, you’ll need to drive at a lower speed due to your increased stopping distance. It’s a similar story if you spot potential hazards like pedestrians crossing suddenly, or a cyclist coming up from behind you.

National speed limits

If you’re driving on a road but don’t spot any signs indicating a speed limit of any kind, then you can safely assume that the national speed limit applies.

National speed limits
Built-up areas Single carriageways Dual carriageways Motorways
Cars and motorcycles 30mph 60mph 70mph 70mph
Vehicles towing caravans/trailers 30mph 50mph 60mph 60mph
Motorhomes/motor caravans (under 3.05 tonnes) 30mph 60mph 70mph 70mph
Motorhomes/motor caravans (over 3.05 tonnes) 30mph 50mph 60mph 70mph
Buses, coaches and minibuses (under 12 metres) 30mph 50mph 60mph 70mph
Buses, coaches and minibuses (over 12 metres) 30mph 50mph 60mph 60mph
Goods vehicles (under 7.5 tonnes) 30mph 50mph 60mph 70mph (60mph if articulated/towing a trailer)
Goods vehicles (over 7.5 tonnes) in England & Wales 30mph 50mph 60mph 60mph
Goods vehicles (over 7.5 tonnes) in Scotland 30mph 40mph 50mph 60mph

You can find even more information in our guide to understanding the national speed limit.

Minimum speed limits

In order to keep traffic moving above a certain speed, you’ll find certain areas that implement minimum speed limits. You’ll notice these speed limits immediately by their road sign, which is a blue circle with the limit in white text. You must drive at or above this speed limit, as long as it’s safe to do so.

✓ Designated lanes

Once you’re on the road, you’ll notice that there are various designated lanes that are reserved for certain types of vehicles, or certain types of actions. You need to be able to identify these lanes quickly and follow the rules they come with, otherwise you could face serious consequences.

Dual carriageway and motorway lanes

When it comes to dual carriageways, you should only ever use the right-hand lane when you intend to overtake another vehicle or turn right. If you’re dealing with a three-lane dual carriageway, this rule applies to the middle and right-hand lanes.

If you’re driving on a motorway, you should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. You should only use the right-hand lanes if you intend to overtake slower-moving vehicles (before returning immediately to the left-hand lane once you’re ahead). The hard shoulder should only ever be used in an emergency, or if you’re directed to do so by the police, traffic officers or by road signs.

Cycle lanes

Typically found in city and town centres, cycle lanes are designed to encourage the use of bicycles by giving cyclists their own safe place to travel on the roads. These lanes are usually marked by pictures of bicycles on the lane itself, along with a blue and white sign. When you spot these lanes, you should avoid veering into them, and make sure to stay out of the cyclist waiting area when stopping at traffic lights.

Pay close attention to what the lines are like on these lanes. If the lane has a solid white line, then you are not allowed to drive in it. If it’s a broken white line, however, you are legally allowed to drive or park in it if you have to.

Bus lanes

You’re likely to encounter bus lanes on a regular basis once you’re behind the wheel, especially if you’re travelling around a city or town centre. These lanes are pretty easy to identify, as they’re usually marked with ‘BUS LANE’ on the road itself, and by blue and white road signs.

These bus lanes usually come with operation times on road signs, which will let you know when you’re allowed to drive in them. Some bus lanes are in operation all day, every day, and others will only be in operation during rush hour traffic. Make sure you pay attention to these times—if you drive in these lanes when they’re in operation, you could end up with a fine and penalty points.

Once you spot a sign that says ‘End of bus lane’, you’ll be able to drive back into the left-hand lane and continue on your way.

Tram lanes

Though they’re rarer than bus and cycle lanes, you might encounter tram lanes in certain city and town centres. These lanes are reserved specifically for trams and will be marked as such on the road itself, and by a blue and white sign stating ‘Trams only’.

If you spot tram tracks, but don’t notice any markings or road signs indicating that the lane is for trams only, be careful when driving. The tracks can become slippery when it’s been raining, so if you can, avoid driving directly over them. You’ll also want to be vigilant in looking out for trams—tram drivers aren’t able to steer away from you, so you don’t want to get in their way.

✓ Junctions and positioning

When you’re on the approach to a junction, it’s important that you position yourself in the right lane in a timely fashion. If you’re planning to make a left turn, for example, you should stick to the left lane and remain parallel to the kerb. If you’re making a right turn, however, you should be positioned towards the right-hand side of the lane, all the while keeping an eye out for cyclists or motorcyclists in your side mirror.

Undoubtedly, at some point in your driving journey, you will end up in the wrong lane at a junction—it happens to even the most experienced drivers out there. In this situation, it’s important that you resist the urge to panic. Do not attempt to barge into the right lane, or make a U-turn. Instead, continue on your way and find a quiet side road to turn into. Only then can you make a U-turn and correct yourself.

Box junctions

A box junction is clearly marked by yellow hatch markings which tell you that you need to keep the junction clear at all times. In fact, you should only ever enter one of the boxes if:

  • The exit road is clear
  • You’re turning right and waiting for oncoming traffic to pass


Though roundabouts might seem terrifying and chaotic to learners who haven’t been behind the wheel for long, they’re actually very straightforward and safe, as long as you know what you’re doing.

On the approach to a roundabout, you should look carefully at the roundabout’s road signs so that you know which exit you intend to take. This will dictate which lane you need to be on in the approach. You should also give way to the traffic on your immediate right. If you’re taking the first exit or travelling straight ahead, you should stick to the left-hand lane and:

  • Signal left on the approach if you’re taking the first exit
  • Wait to signal until you’ve passed the exit before the one you’re taking if you’re continuing straight ahead

If you’re taking an exit on the right, or going in a full circle, you should position yourself in the right-hand lane and signal right on the approach. You should stick to your lane until you’re coming up to your exit, then signal left once you pass the exit before the one you’re turning into.


If you plan to turn right at a crossroads at the same time an oncoming driver intends to turn right, you should always try to turn behind the other vehicle (keeping them on your right), as it will give you a better view of the road. Of course, if you have no choice but to turn in front of the vehicle, just remember that your view might be hindered, so extra caution is advised.

If you’re dealing with an unmarked crossroads, then no-one has priority. In other words, you’re looking at a free for all situation, which can be very dangerous. This means that you’ll have to make your observations carefully—checking that it’s clear in all directions before you enter the junction. If you spot oncoming traffic that shows no signs of stopping, you should give way and wait until it’s clear to proceed.

✓ Pedestrian crossings

In addition to the various designated lanes that you have to keep an eye out for, you’ve also got to be on the lookout for pedestrian crossings. There are a few different types on the roads, so you’ll need to familiarise yourself with them so that you know what action(s) to take.

Pelican crossings

These types of crossings are controlled by a set of traffic lights which a pedestrian can then control by pressing a button. Once the button is activated, a light with a green man will indicate that the pedestrian can cross the road. This light is usually accompanied by a beeping noise.

Your actions will vary depending on what colour the traffic lights are showing:

  • Red: you need to stop behind the white line. Do not go over this line—it will lead to you failing your test and potentially receiving a fine or penalty points.
  • Amber: you need to be prepared to stop. The only time you are allowed to continue is if stopping would be dangerous.
  • Flashing amber: before the green light appears, you’ll see a flashing amber light. You will need to give way to any pedestrians on the crossing, or continue on if the way is clear.
  • Green: you can proceed. Make sure that it’s definitely clear, though!

Puffin crossings

These crossings are very similar to pelican crossings. The key difference is that these lights come with sensors that can detect when pedestrians are present. When a pedestrian presses the button, a green man will appear on the yellow and black box next to them. This will switch the traffic lights to red until the sensors detect that the pedestrians have crossed.

Unlike pelican crossings, puffin crossings do not use flashing amber lights. The purpose of this is to dissuade drivers from attempting to continue on when pedestrians are still crossing.

Toucan crossings

Toucan crossings work in much the same way as puffin crossings. They use sensors to detect when people are waiting to cross or in the process of crossing. The main difference is that these crossings are designed to be used by both pedestrians and cyclists (meaning ‘two can’ cross).

You should treat a toucan crossing the same way you would treat a pelican or puffin crossing—wait for the lights to change and make sure that the way is clear before proceeding.

Zebra crossings

Unlike the other crossings we’ve discussed, zebra crossings do not come with traffic lights. Instead, you’re supposed to stop and wait if you see a pedestrian preparing to cross (as long as it’s safe for you to do so). This is the only type of crossing in which pedestrians have the right of way. You will need to wait until the pedestrians have reached the other side before proceeding.

✓ Level crossings

You will find level crossings where railway lines cross over a road. For obvious safety reasons, they can be dangerous if you’re not paying attention. If the crossing is hidden by a bend or a corner, you might spot countdown markers on your approach.

Controlled level crossings come with traffic light signals with twin flashing red lights which will warn you that a train is approaching. These crossings might come with a barrier that will prevent you from driving onto the tracks when they’re in use, but not always.

If you ever find yourself crossing these tracks when the lights start flashing, you need to get across as quickly as you can until you’re clear.

✓ Meeting traffic

Whenever you meet oncoming traffic on the road, you need to be aware of who has priority. In most cases, you’ll be presented with road signs which will indicate who has priority at a junction or on a narrowed street. But what happens when you’re dealing with a road that is obstructed in some way?

It all depends on which side of the road the obstruction is on! If it’s on your side, you will need to slow down and potentially come to a stop, giving way to oncoming traffic until the way is clear enough for you to proceed. If it’s on the other side of the road, then you should technically have priority. Err on the side of caution, though, as there’s no way of knowing whether or not other road users will follow the rules.

If you ever find yourself on a road that isn’t wide enough for two vehicles whilst encountering oncoming traffic, you should attempt to find a gap to move into on the left—allowing traffic to pass until it’s clear for you to proceed.

✓ Overtaking

Overtaking another road user is something that should only be done if it is safe and legal to do so. This means checking your mirrors and blindspots to make sure that it’s clear for you to move, signalling in a timely manner and making your move in a safe and controlled fashion.

In most cases, overtaking is something that happens on the right-hand side of the road. As mentioned earlier, if you’re on a dual carriageway or motorway, you’ll always overtake on the right, before moving back to the left. The only time you’ll overtake on the left is if you’re in a one-way street and need to overtake slow moving vehicles.

✓ Reversing

Reversing is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres that you’ll have to do when behind the wheel. You should never attempt to reverse from a side road into a main road—even if you check your mirrors, there’s no way that you would be able to safely make the manoeuvre without affecting the flow of traffic and endangering yourself or other road users.

If you’re reversing into a side road, you need to carefully check your mirrors and blindspots to make sure that it’s clear for you to proceed. You should also be aware that as you begin reversing, the front of your vehicle will swing out, which means you’ll need to give yourself plenty of room to move.

If you need to, you are legally allowed to unbuckle your seatbelt to give yourself a better view. You’ll need to fasten it once you’re done, or you run the risk of getting fined or failing your driving test.

✓ Stopping

Unless you fancy breaking the law and dealing with a fine or penalty points, you must stop your vehicle when:

  • You’re at a red traffic light
  • You’ve been signalled to do so by a police officer, traffic officer or a road sign
  • You’ve been involved in an accident that has caused damage or injury

If you’re stopping your car outside of the above scenarios, you need to make sure that you’ve picked a safe and legal place. If you’ve stopped to park on a road with a speed limit over 30mph at night, you’re legally required to leave your side lights on. You should also park on the left-hand side of the road so that other drivers can see your reflectors properly (if it’s a one-way street, you can park on either side).

You are not allowed to stop on a clearway (indicated by a sign with a red cross on a blue background), unless it’s an urban one and you’re dropping off or picking up passengers.

✓ Parking

You need to be very careful about where you decide to park your vehicle on the road. When parking in designated bays in a car park or at the side of the road (marked by blue and white road signs), you will need to follow the restrictions that are in place, e.g., paying for parking and displaying the ticket in your window, or only parking within the window of time stipulated by the signs.

If you’re looking to park on the roads in general, you need to keep your eyes peeled for road markings which ban you from parking, e.g., single/double yellow lines, clearways (indicated by signs with a red cross and blue background) and white/yellow zigzag lines. If you park on these lines anyway, you could end up with your wheels clamped, a fine and penalty points.

You should avoid parking in places which could inconvenience or endanger other road users, such as:

  • Within 10 metres of a junction
  • Near the brow of a hill
  • In front of someone’s driveway
  • Against the flow of traffic
  • Near a school entrance
  • At or near a bus stop

Additionally, you should only ever park in a disabled parking space if you, or one of your passengers, are a disabled badge holder—in other words, if you have a blue badge. You’ll need to display this badge near your front window, otherwise you run the risk of being fined.

Can’t remember everything we’ve covered? We’ve summarised all of the topics below!

Rules of the road topics

Example questions featured image

Multiple-choice questions

Given that the multiple-choice section will consist of questions from all fourteen theory test topics, it’s important that you know each topic inside and out—after all, you’ll need to score at least 43 out of 50 if you want to pass. To help you figure out how much you’ve actually learned so far, we’ve put together a rules of the road quiz!

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

Case studies

It’s important that you not only have a good understanding of this theory test knowledge, but also know how to apply it to real life situations on the road. The DVSA tests this by getting you to watch a video clip at the end of the multiple-choice section and answer three questions about the scenario. In the slideshow below, we’ve given you five case studies to give you an idea of what to expect.

Let us know how many questions you got right in the comment section below!

How to revise rules of the road

Two stacks of books, one taller than the other, each with a car on top, floating in clouds

Give yourself a huge pat on the back! You’ve officially gotten to the end of yet another theory test topic and you’re one step closer to acing your theory test! Before you get too giddy and ahead of yourself, you need to make sure that you’ve actually gotten to grips with the rules of the road. To help you along, we’ve got a list of some handy resources:

Once we’ve made it through the rest of the instalments in our Theory Test Topics Explained series, we’d recommend putting together a theory test revision schedule. Try to fit in your revision around your working day—whether that’s during your commute, on a dinner break or in the evening. If you’re not sure where to start in regards to revision materials, our ultimate theory test revision resources should do the trick!

If in doubt, start with the Highway Code, which provides vital road information and rules. We advise buying resources like the official DVSA handbook or the AA theory test book. They both contain official DVSA questions with answers. Revise them thoroughly—they could show up on your test.

Looking for more? Check out our other theory test topic breakdown instalments:

By Bethany Hall

Whether you’re a learner or a pro driver, Bethany is here to help. From defensive driving to the Highway Code, she’ll tell you everything you need know about driving. If she’s not on the road, you’ll probably find Bethany with her head in a book or binge-watching the latest TV show.

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