The Highway Code: What is it and how do I learn it?

What you need to know about the Highway Code, where to find it and how to use it to pass your driving test


All the rules, regulations and guidelines road users must follow are set out in the Highway Code. First published in 1931, it covers all aspects of the UK road network and how to use it safely, and is regularly updated to reflect the state of motoring in Britain, the cars we drive and how we drive them.

The Highway Code is put together by the Driving Standards Agency  and the Department for Transport. It’s an essential read for motorists, but all road users must understand the guidelines set out within it, including pedestrians and cyclists. 

If you’re learning to drive you should be familiar with the Highway Code – it plays a large role in the process of getting on the road, and you’ll find it very hard to pass your theory and practical tests without regularly consulting it.

Once you’ve passed, the book mustn’t be banished – every motorist has a responsibility to know the rules inside, and keeping a copy or buying a new one to consult every now and then is strongly recommended.

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What's in the Highway Code?

The Highway Code book is full of useful road-related advice for everyone in the UK, as well as the legal requirements and prohibited actions on Britain's highways. Here's a simple summary of the contents:

  1. Rules for pedestrians
  2. Rules for horse riders
  3. Rules for cyclists and motorcyclists
  4. Rules for car, van and lorry drivers
  5. General advice on topics such as weather, parking, motorways, road works and level crossings
  6. Road signs and markings, with their meanings
  7. Signals from authority figures and other road users
  8. Licence and riding/driving requirements
  9. The law and penalties for breaking it
  10. Vehicle maintenance, safety and first aid advice

While reading through the code, you'll see some items are marked by the phrase 'Must/Must not' – these are the laws of the roads, and will result in prosecution if not followed properly. Some rules use the terms 'should/should not' or 'do/do not', which will not by themselves result in prosecution – but they could be used has evidence in court to establish liability.

Learning the Highway Code: top tips

Learner drivers will be very familiar with the Highway Code, and it's certainly a massive help when taking the theory and practical driving tests – but it can be hard to remember all of those rules. Here are a few handy hints to help make learning the Highway Code easier.

  • Download the official Highway Code app, which includes the full contents, as well as quizzes and a learning tool that tracks your progress and tests your knowledge after each section.
  • Listen to the Highway Code audiobook – listening to the audio version on your headphones lets you get on with other tasks, and you can test yourself on what you've learned afterwards.
  • Follow the Highway Code on Twitter and Facebook to get frequent reminders of the most important advice in your social media feeds.
  • Find an online Highway Code quiz to test your knowledge – try reading through the book and taking a different quiz every day to make sure you've covered everything.
  • Get a friend to test you on specific subjects – like roundabouts, road markings or signs.

Where to read the Highway Code

It always used to be available just as a book, found in most bookshops – and that version is still available at a reasonable price, especially via online outlets. However the Highway Code is available is a huge variety of formats these days, and many of them are free.

Here are the ways to read the Highway Code:

  1. Buy the book, in English, Welsh or Irish – note that the Northern Irish version is slightly different. 
  2. Buy an eBook for your preferred eBook reader.
  3. Download the iOS or Android app.
  4. Listen to the audiobook version.
  5. Download the Highway Code pdf document for free.
  6. Visit the online version on the UK Government website.
  7. Print the Highway Code off at home.
  8. Visit your local library and borrow a physical copy.
  9. Buy the official CD-ROM version for your PC.
  10. Brush up by following the Highway Code on Twitter or Facebook.

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