How To Drive On Dual Carriageways

Last Updated: 10/04/2021

There are many different types of road which you will have to get used to driving on when you’re learning how to drive.

At first, you will stick mostly to slow and quiet roads, likely with a limit or 30 or 40mph.

As you grow in confidence, your instructor will look to get you on to busier and faster roads.

The quickest type of road which you can legally drive on before you’ve passed your test (while under instruction) is a dual carriageway.

A dual carriageway describes a road which is split down the middle to separate traffic travelling in opposite directions.

The division is usually emphasised by a grass verge, often with a crash barrier to define it.

Most dual carriageways are made up of two or three lanes either side of the divide but some can have many more.

While they can be quite a thrill to drive on for new drivers, they bring many risks and many new concerns which you have to be aware of.

In addition, you need to be aware of other road users who may be breaking an already high speed limit and overtaking everyone in the second or third lane.

Being prepared for driving on a dual carriageway for the first time is really important.

What You Will Learn

With so much to learn and so many new things to be aware of, we’ve put together this guide to try and arm you with as much information and guidance as possible.

After all, if you can master driving on a dual carriageway, you’re well on your way to driving success.

  • Step-By-Step Guide
  • Video Demonstration
  • Hints & Tips
  • Useful Information
  • Final Thoughts
  • Further Resources

Step-By-Step Guide

You will know you are approaching a dual carriageway when you see the above sign.

Once on the dual carriageway you must stay in the left hand lane unless road signs or markings tell you otherwise.

Equally, you should return to the left hand lane after overtaking.

There is a speed limit of 70 mph on dual carriageways and it is important that you concentrate on the traffic situation well ahead and keep looking in your mirrors to see what the traffic is doing behind you.

As you arrive at the end of the dual carriageway you will see the above sign.

It is important that you stay in your lane and not overtake when you see this sign as you may not be able to complete your manoeuvre before the road narrows into one lane.

Most dual carriageways are clearways.

The above sign indicates that the road is a clearway which means that you must not stop on the main carriageway, unless you stop in a lay-by.

The purpose of clearways is to keep the traffic flowing smoothly.

Overtaking On A Dual Carriageway:

You must constantly use your mirrors when overtaking on a dual carriageway.

The manoeuvre involves getting ready to overtake, overtaking and moving back into the left hand lane.

This requires signalling that you will be moving into the left hand lane safely and without affecting any other vehicle and cancelling your signal once you are in the lane.

If you travel on a dual carriageway during your driving test, rest assured that your examiner will be looking to see if you’re in control of the car and taking safety seriously.

This means that checking blind spots and mirrors when overtaking or changing lanes, not to mention that you’re driving within the speed limit.

Along these same lines, driving too slow on a dual carriageway can also be problematic, so make sure you’re confident enough to keep with the pace of the traffic (within the laws of the road).

Video Demonstration

Hints & Tips

Dual carriageways are controlled by traffic lights and they have the usual junctions and slip roads.

Like motorways, dual carriageways have a speed limit of 70 mph so you must be very careful to judge when a gap appears in the traffic to allow you to emerge from left or right.

To help with this, slip roads have been introduced.

Slip roads help to keep the traffic running smoothly whether joining or leaving the dual carriageway.

A slip road enables you to increase your speed as you approach your entry point on to the carriageway when a suitable gap appears.

The main point here is to move onto the carriageway at the same speed as traffic already on the carriageway is travelling at.

You will need a small gap if you are travelling at the same speed as the traffic you are about to join but if you are travelling slower then you will need to move on to the carriageway when a larger gap appears.

It is therefore crucial that you assess the length of the slip road to make a judgement about the speed you need to be travelling at to join the carriageway safely and smoothly.

Joining a carriageway via a slip road requires careful use of the mirrors to guide your manoeuvres and speed adjustment.

Slow moving vehicles are permitted on dual carriageways and are common.

This means that you should be prepared to see and deal with vehicles such as tractors and buses.

There may also be bus stops along the carriageway, so you need to be aware of these too and the possible presence of pedestrians.

If the carriageway is very busy then you will need to wait at the start of the slip road so that you are ready to quickly increase your speed when you see a gap appear.

Useful Information

A key difference between a motorway and a dual carriageway is that on a dual carriageway, slow-moving vehicles are permitted and are common.

This means that you should be prepared to see and deal with vehicles such as tractors and buses.

There may also be bus stops along the carriageway, so you need to be aware of these too and the possible presence of pedestrians.

Final Thoughts

Driving on a dual carriageway at night can be particularly challenging, especially if there are roadworks.

Always keep a distance from the vehicle in front and use mirrors and signals for all manoeuvres, particularly when entering and exiting a slip road and when overtaking.

Further Resources