Driving and riding a bike in England
Once you have gotten settled in England, you will want to start making your way around to do some exploring of your overseas duty station. Whether you are driving or riding a bike, there are a few things you will need to know before you hit the road.
Driving in England
Driving in England can seem daunting at first. Traffic travels on the left, country roads are very narrow, and roundabouts are everywhere.
You’ll need to be extremely diligent, especially as you start out driving. Remember to look right first for oncoming traffic, exercise caution when entering and exiting roundabouts, and avoid passing on two-lane roads in restricted areas or when visibility is poor. Visit your base’s website for a list of no-passing zones near your installation.
American cars are allowed on the road for a brief time after arrival. You should visit the vehicle registration and inspection office at your installation within 72 hours of receiving your vehicle. At this time you will receive a temporary base pass.
Requirements to Drive in England
To become U.K. compliant you will need:
• License: The Air Force will help you obtain a USAFE 3rd Air Force Drivers License. You will be required to take an exam covering the rules of the road in England. To study, visit https:// www.gov.uk/highway-code.
• Tax disc: A tax disc is similar to a U.S. state registration tab. The first one is free, but it must be renewed every year thereafter. The fee varies depending on the vehicle. Speak with base officials about getting your initial disc.
• MOT inspection/SVA inspection: Ministry of Transportation (MOT) inspections check the general condition of vehicles more than three years old, and your car must have one before being driven in England. Many mechanics offer them, and prices will vary. If your vehicle is less than three years old, you’ll need only a Single Vehicle Approval (SVA) inspection.
• Light conversion: The rules governing the exterior lights of a vehicle are different in England than in the U.S. Among these changes is an adjustment to the direction of your headlights so that they do not blind motorists when driving on the left side of the road. A mechanic can complete modifications, but be aware that you may spend several hundred pounds.
• Insurance: There are some companies familiar to servicemembers providing car insurance in England. Geico and USAA both have offices in England. Even if you already have insurance with one of these companies, you will need to update your insurance policy before driving in England.
There are restrictions on drinking alcohol and driving in England. According to www.gov.uk:
• 35 microgrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath.
• 80 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood.
• 107 milligrammes of alcohol per 100 millilitres of urine.
For information on drinking and driving in the U.K., visit www.gov.uk. Always have a plan for getting home if you will be out drinking.
Riding a Bike
If you are going to ride a bike, always wear appropriate safety gear. Though bikes are permitted on English roads, be aware that streets can be very narrow and visibility is often poor. You will likely have to ride in more traffic than you are accustomed to, so exercise caution.
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