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  • Emma Hallett

Differences between roads

Following on from my post last week about how to tell if you are driving on a dual carriageway I thought I would write up the main differences between the different types of roads which some people may find useful for theory revision as well as for identifying what kind of road you are driving on.


  • Typically has 3 lanes but could be 2+.

  • Will have a central reservation.

  • Will have cat’s eyes (this is covered as a different post).

  • Blue signage.

  • All road numbers start with ‘M’ e.g. M5.

  • Will have a hard shoulder.

  • Can have smart motorways (this is covered as a different post).

  • Will be 70mph speed limit unless reduced by overhead signs on a smart motorway or signs on the central reservation.

  • Slower moving vehicles are not permitted (e.g. cyclists) so everything is typically doing 60 or 70mph.

  • Learners are not permitted to drive on motorways.

Dual carriageways:

  • Can be unrestricted (national speed limit of 70mph) or restricted to any speed 30mph or above.

  • Typically has 2 lanes but could be 1, 3 or 4.

  • Will have a central reservation – sometimes just a small kerb – anything that separates the traffic flowing in opposite directions counts as a central reservation.

  • Dark green signage.

  • All road numbers start with ‘A’ e.g. A38, but not all ‘A’ road are dual carriageways.

  • Will not have a hard shoulder, instead there will be lay-bys.

  • Slower vehicles are permitted so you could have some road users doing approximately 20mph up to the speed limit.

Single carriageways:

This category of road covers everything that is not a motorway or dual carriageway. For convenience I have broken it down into country roads and town driving.

Country roads:

  • Either rural or semi-rural.

  • Typically a 60mph speed limit unless stated otherwise.

  • Typically there will be no street lights.

  • It will only be road markings separating the flow of traffic travelling in opposite directions. There may be nothing in the centre of the road if it is narrow.

  • Signage will generally be white.

  • Expect to see all types of vehicles.

Town roads:

  • There will be street lights.

  • It will be a 30mph speed limit unless stated otherwise.

  • You will come across 20mph ‘zones’ where the speed limit is stated as you enter the ‘zone’ but there are no further signs, instead you will have traffic calming measures such as speed bumps.

  • There will be more junctions, roundabouts and traffic lights than you would find on other types of road.

  • Expect to see lots of parked cars.

  • There are usually road markings separating the flow of traffic in opposite directions but on narrow roads there will be nothing.

  • There will be lots of houses and shops, more than on country roads.

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