Advice for motorists

About driving in residential areas

Driving in residential areas does require different skills to driving on other roads. In many residential areas there will be more obstacles to look out for such as children playing in or alongside the road, or there may even be animals straying into the road.

These obstacles mean that drivers in residential areas need to be very aware of their surroundings. Even if the road ahead appears to be clear and problem-free, this situation can change in a matter of seconds, especially if there are a lot of parked vehicles.  

Always look out for traffic signs taking into account that trees or parked vehicles may obstruction your view and look out for triangular warning signs which will give early indication of hazards such as road works.

Always drive to suit the conditions of the road

Most residential streets have a speed limit of 30mph but along some streets the speed limit is lowered to and shown as 20mph. Speed limits are only ever a guide not a target speed and motorists must drive to suit the conditions of the road, mindful that even driving at the speed limit could be too fast. Factors that affect road conditions include fog, rain and traffic flow.

Don't speed

Motorists are considered to be speeding when they exceed the legal speed limit. Driving over the speed limit is against the law and the minimum penalty for speeding is a £60 fine plus three penalty points added to your licence.

Inappropriate speed is driving within the speed limit but too fast for the road and traffic conditions. Driving at an inappropriate speed considerably reduces the drivers' reaction time.

Whenever possible, drive at a steady speed. Make sure you look ahead to where you will be in the next 12 to 15 seconds so that you can assess any situations or obstacles that you may need to avoid by changing your speed.

Watch out for children

When driving in residential areas and near to schools you should always reduce your speed and watch out for pedestrians, particularly children. Make sure you:

  • keep your concentration;
  • take-in everything around you; and
  • keep your wits about you.

Any loss of concentration can be extremely dangerous. A child or group of children might not be looking where they are going - it only takes a moment for a child to run into the street. Always drive carefully and reduce your speed to lessen the chances of a serious or fatal accident.

Look out for children:

  • at play;
  • crossing the road;
  • walking home from school (especially children in groups who can be easily distracted);
  • getting off a bus (children may try to cross in front of or behind the bus);
  • around parked ice cream vans. 

Be wary of other traffic and be prepared to slow down

As long as you keep to a sensible speed and stay focused you shouldn't encounter too many problems when you are driving through residential areas. However, being able to anticipate hazards and being alert to potential problems are key characteristics for being a safe driver.

Things to look out for:

  • school crossing patrol sites (be prepared to slow down and stop if the patrol steps onto the carriageway and displays a 'Stop children' sign);
  • entrances to schools;
  • parked cars setting off or backing out of driveways.
  • driveways, side streets and any other locations where there might be traffic hazards.

Always be ready to slow down and don't forget to look left and right to check for vehicles or pedestrians.

Position your vehicle right

In general keep your vehicle to the centre of the lane away from parked vehicles or pedestrians unless you need to change you position because of a situation or obstacle.

Keep at least a two-to-three-second distance behind the vehicle in front of you and increase the distance if another vehicle follows too closely behind you.

Avoid driving behind any large vehicles that block your view of the road ahead.

When stopped behind another vehicle, leave enough space to see its rear wheels or to pull around it without having to back up.

Don't take shortcuts

Don't be tempted to use residential streets as a shortcut. Only drivers in a hurry use shortcuts, resulting in speeding, accidents and an unsafe environment for residents who live in the neighbourhood.

In practice, shortcuts rarely provide any significant time savings for the motorists who use them so keep to the proper route.

Don't be distracted

Do not adjust settings on radio or satellite navigation systems whilst driving along a residential road. Taking your eyes off the road will inhibit your ability to react in response to unexpected events.

It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone while you are driving - even when you are stopped at traffic lights or in a queue. If you're caught then you can expect to get an automatic fixed penalty notice. This means you'll get three penalty points on your driving licence and have to pay a fine of £60.

Make sure you park right

When parking on-street, park close to the kerb without mounting the footway.

Drivers who choose to park partly on the footway and partly on the carriageway often do so under the misapprehension that this helps to protect their vehicle from passing traffic. However, in practice, motorists drive more slowly where the road environment does not provide opportunities to speed. Parking partially off the carriageway effectively increases the width of road available to passing motorists which can encourage higher speeds and increase the potential for collisions resulting from driver error.

Do not park:

  • on any waiting restrictions;
  • in bays reserved for disabled drivers;
  • on the footway;
  • where your vehicle might obstruct access to a private driveway.

Contact for Traffic Management Service