Driving in the UK
Driving in the United Kingdom is unique from driving on American roads. You will take a driver's exam based on the Highway Code soon after you arrive as part of the Team Mildenhall Newcomer Briefings (arranged through Military & Family Readiness).
To help you stay safe on the roads please read this important information from Wing Safety:
Registration and Licensing Requirements
It is mandatory that you attend the RAF Mildenhall Driving Briefing within 14 days from your arrival in the U.K. The briefing is held as part of the base newcomer briefings arranged through the Military & Family Readiness Center (M&FRC). Members and any dependents that will be driving here must complete the briefing, pass the 50 question written test and obtain their USAFE Form 435 (driving/fuel permit). To help prepare for the test, you must be familiar with the official Highway Code on the UK Government Website, especially the traffic signs. Highway Code books are also available for loan out at the M&FRC.
Privately Owned Vehicles (POV)
If you are looking for information on a privately owned vehicle you are importing from the US to the UK, please visit the Importing a Vehicle section
To legally drive on UK roads, aside from the driver having a valid driving license, the vehicle will need the following;
- Motor insurance. Note: The driver needs to be named on the insurance policy for the vehicle. The vehicle being insured but without the driver being named on the policy is not sufficient to meet the required standard, except where specifically listed. For example it may say ‘Any driver over 25 years of age’.
- An in date MOT. The Ministry of Transport (MOT) test is an annual safety inspection required on all vehicles over 3 years old. The MOT stays with the vehicle and is passed from the seller to the new buyer. If you buy a British car make sure you check that the MOT is in date, when it is due to expire, that it is signed and the correct VIN is listed on it before leaving the seller.
- Road Tax: This can be paid on line at the DVLA web site, or at some, but not all, UK Post Offices. Guidance to help with this can be found within the Registration Document and on the UK government website at https://www.gov.uk.
The following sections will give more specific detail on local laws that apply while driving in the UK.
Under UK law, the windshields, also referred to as windscreens, of vehicles first used prior to 1 Apr 85 must allow at least 70% of visual light to pass through the glass. Vehicles newer than 1 April 85 must have windshields that allow 75% of visual light to pass through the glass and front side windows that allow 70% of visual light to pass through the glass. The rear windows of vehicles can be heavily tinted as long as the vehicle is equipped with side mirrors.
The rules limiting tinted vehicle glass were implemented for two important reasons: first, to increase road safety by improving driver visibility, and second, to protect Police Officers by giving them increased visibility into vehicles. Whilst permanently tinted glass may improve the visibility of drivers in bright conditions it will restrict visibility in dark conditions which may prevent drivers from seeing other motorists or pedestrians. Also when vehicles are emerging from junctions, approaching drivers will look for confirmation that the drivers of the emerging vehicles have noticed their approach. Excessively tinted glass can prevent eye contact being established. It's illegal to fit or sell glass (or have a vehicle already fitted with glass) that breaks the rules on tinted windows.
The police or VOSA vehicle examiners use light measuring equipment to measure window tint. If your windscreen or front side windows are tinted too much you could get a ‘prohibition notice' stopping you from using your vehicle on the road until you have the extra tint removed, and/or a penalty notice or court summons. Tinted windows are not part of the MOT test.
Hands-free devices must be used while operating a motor vehicle on ALL military installations worldwide, as well as throughout the U.K. Fines for not using a Hands-free device are upwards of £200 and six points on your license.
Car insurance is very expensive in Great Britain, especially if you are under age 25. If you do not have any vehicle violations or accidents on your license while in the United States, then have your insurance company in the US write a letter stating such and you will be eligible for a considerable (up to 60%) discount on your insurance.
All Civilians, Active Duty, and their dependents must acquire U.K. insurance to operate a motor vehicle in the U.K.
There is a local Geico office located on RAF Lakenheath and also a local USAA insurance branch located in London.
USAA International Auto Insurance can be reached at (Toll Free) 1-800-531-8722/ 0800 28 9192 (local).
Geico overseas insurance can be reached at (Toll-Free) 1-800-248-4998/ 01638 53 3400 (local).
Requirements for the MOT testing include
- All vehicles built after 1 April 1981 must have a fog light, mounted at the rear of the vehicle, centered to the right hand side of the vehicle. Also, the light control switch must light up when the fog light is on and must be seen from the driver's seat.
- Parking lights must be white, not amber.
- The headlights in the UK are angled differently than in the States because of driving on the other side of the road. It is suggested that the re-aiming of your lights be done when you arrive in the UK.
- All vehicles built after 1 April 1986 must have a side repeater. A side repeater is a separate turn signal in the fender that can be seen from the driver side door. In most cases this means drilling holes in the fender of approximately 3/4 inch. Wraparound lights may substitute for the side repeater in some models.
- All rear turn signals must flash amber, and must not adversely affect any other light (brake light, parking light).
- Very few American vehicles meet the standards for light requirements in the UK. The price for a light conversion can be very high depending on the vehicle.
Road tax is a yearly tax paid to the UK government on motor vehicles using public roads. When you buy a vehicle, the vehicle tax will not be transferred with the vehicle. You will need to get a new vehicle road tax before you can use the vehicle. You can tax the vehicle using the New Keeper Supplement (V5C/2) part of the vehicle registration certificate (V5C) online, by using the automated phone service - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or visiting a Post Office branch.
If you bring a vehicle with you to the UK and do not plan on driving it for an extended period of time, you can make a SORN (Statutory Off Road Notification) if you don't use or keep your vehicle on a public road (eg you keep it in a garage, on a drive or on private land). You don't have to pay road tax. To apply for a SORN you can do so by applying online, by phone, or post.
Some tolls will only be available to pay online. The most common in this area is the Dart Charge. You may have an account to manage this or use this website to pay. This must be paid by midnight of the day after you crossed or the fee may increase.
Other Tolls which do not require an online account accept some collection of the following payment methods, dependent on the road:
- Chip & Pin
- Apple Pay
- Google Pay
- Samsung Pay
Calculating Toll Road Charges
Find out how much you’ll have to pay to use toll roads, bridges and tunnels within the UK road network on the www.gov.uk/uk-toll-roads
During peak times and within certain cities where clean air zones apply:
Driving in a Clean Air Zone (As marked on the road in applicable cities)
If your vehicle does not meet the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) standards, you must also pay the ULEZ charge.
Upon Arrival Topics
- Start 100th PCS
- Transport from the Airport
- RAF Mildenhall Welcome & In-Processing
- Travel Allowance
- Child & Youth Programs Registration
- School Registration
- Pet Registration
- Driving Overseas
- Buying & Renting a Car
- Vehicle Registration
- Fuel Card
- Medical, Dental & Eye Care
- Mental Health, Family Advocacy, & Health Promotions
- Pregnancy in the UK
- Finding a Home
- Overseas Electricity
- Bills Banks & Exchange Rates