When taking driving lessons, there are many different fundamental skills you are taught, from how to take on different situations you may experience on the roads to how to avoid breaking the law. Unfortunately, as the majority of lessons are only around 2 hours maximum, there will be pieces of driving knowledge you’re likely to miss out on. Your instructor’s main aim is to get you passed as a safe and confident driver, in the given time frame, meaning they cannot cover absolutely every scenario you may be faced with.
A particular situation that many drivers, even after years of driving, admit they are slightly unsure of is the rules regarding the use of bus lanes. No matter where you live, whether it may be a busy city or tranquil village, it is almost guaranteed that there will be at least one bus stop. To clear up any questions on the topic of bus lanes in preparation for taking on the roads independantly, we’re going to discuss the matter, when can you use a bus lane?
When Can You Use A Bus Lane? – A Full Guide To The Rules
The first step towards understanding when and why you may need to drive through a bus lane is taking some time to make yourself aware of the rules. Every driving related law can be found in The Highway Code.
In the past, before theory tests were introduced, it was a compulsory task to read The Highway Code, as, during your practical test, your examiner would ask you a number of randomly selected question based on your knowledge of The Highway Code. However, nowadays as we all know, instead learners must complete and pass their theory test along with their hazard perception. Rather than spending hours reading through a book of rules, we instead use digital apps and mock tests to prepare for the exam. Your theory test is a combination of The Highway Code and driving practices.
Rule 141 of The Highway Code includes all information on situations in which bus stops can be used.
How Can I Tell The Difference Between Different Signs?
If you were to drive or walk through a city centre for around half an hour, it is more than likely that you will see more than one different type of bus stop signs. It is understandable that this can be a little tricky to tell apart. Luckily, there will also be a set of road signs to notify road users of a bus stop. There will be a series of white dashed lines leading up to the stop which will then transform into one solid white line.
The first sign you may come across is white with the words ‘Bus Stop’ and no other text. This is merely an informative sign letting you know that this location is a bus stop, however, there are no laws regarding driving through here. If you spot a white bus stop sign, it can be used as a regular road.
Next is a blue sign, which is slightly more technical. The first thing you will notice on a blue sign is a number of symbols of different vehicles; these are the types of vehicles that can drive through the bus lane. There will also be a set of timings along with days of the week. This tells you which days, and at what times the bus lane is active, even if you have the vehicle stated, you can only use the bus lane outside of these stated hours. For example, if the sign says Mon-Fri, 9am-4pm, you cannot use the bus lane on weekdays between the hours of operation.
Here is when it gets a little more confusing, there is a second type of blue sign. A blue sign with no days or times stated means that the bus stop is in operation 24/7, seven days a week, you cannot drive through here.
What If I Have No Other Choice But To Use A Bus Lane?
There are some instances where you are permitted to drive through a bus lane while it is in operation. You can move into a bus lane if an emergency vehicle, such as an ambulance or police car, is approaching and you need to let them through, but ensure you edge back in to join the road once they have passed. The only other reason as to why you may need to use a bus lane is if roadworks are blocking your pathway.
What Happens If I Accidentally Drive Through A Bus Lane?
Unfortunately, along with the rise in the inappropriate use of bus lanes, local councils have invested a considerable amount of money into installing CCTV cameras to catch out drivers. If caught, you will be faced with a fine, which will increase the longer you take to pay up.
Similarly to when receiving a parking ticket, you will be given a Penalty Charge Notice of £90, in which you have 28 days to pay. Luckily, if you pay within 14 days, this will be halved, and you will only have to pay £45. However, if you do not pay within the 28-day time frame, this will increase to £135 and so on.
How Can I Stay Safe Driving Through Or Around A Bus Lane?
It is more than likely that you will have to drive past or around a bus lane way more times that drive through. When passing a stationary bus waiting at a stop, always be prepared for many pedestrians leaving the vehicle. Be aware that there may be vulnerable road users in your blind spot, so check your mirrors more regularly.
Driving through a housing estate may put you in a situation where you need to overtake a bus. In this instance, only overtake if you can clearly see the road ahead and many passengers are waiting to get on or off. The more passenger, the more time you will have to overtake safely. If there are little or no passengers waiting to get on, it is always recommended to remain patient and wait behind.
While driving on a dual carriageway, buses will have their own separate section of the road to stop; however, when they want to join the road again, they will need to pull out and rejoin the road. If you notice a bus indicating to participate, give way to the driver and slow down to allow them to rejoin.
Using A Bus Lane During Your Driving Test
Always keep an eye out for bus stop signs during your practical test to spot whether you can use the road or not. We had a pupil once who was taking driving lessons in Luton who failed their test for panicking and trying to swerve a bus lane, disrupting approaching traffic when if they looked closer, would have noticed that it was perfectly fine to drive through.
We hope that our article has cleared up any issues and questions regarding the use of bus lanes, remember always stay calm and remain vigilant.