As an American, I am used to driving on the right, and that the left lane on a major highway is supposed to be the "fast lane"...

If I attempt to drive in the UK, is the right lane the "fast lane" on major highways?

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    Note that one difference is that while in the US undertaking (I learned a new word today, it means overtaking on the inside lanes, so overtaking on the left in the UK, or overtaking on the right in the US) is allowed, it is not generally allowed in the UK and even prohibited in many other European countries.
    – drat
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 2:47
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    Funny. Undertaking means something else to me...
    – Karlson
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 2:50
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    Yes, the right lane is closest to the median strip and is for going fast. Slower lanes and slip roads are on the left.
    – Gayot Fow
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 3:29
  • in London at most crossings there are road markings to tell you which way to look, due to the many Europeans that visit Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 4:20
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    @Karlson : Yeah, undertaking can help you visit the undertaker. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 11:44

1 Answer 1


Fast Lanes Are a No

As you correctly point out, the UK is one of those countries where vehicles drive on the left hand lane. This means that overtaking is done by passing vehicles on the right. I don't think that a the concept of a fast lane exists on UK motorways since one should always occupy the leftmost free lane and switch to adjacent lanes on the right solely to overtake. Indeed this is reflected the UK Highway Code:

Rule 264

You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. 

So Is Undertaking

For completeness sake note that undertaking, I.e. passing vehicles on their inside (left) lane is forbidden in the UK, except for when dense traffic conditions force vehicle to proceed slowly on parallel lanes. Quoting from the UK Highway Code:

Rule 268

Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right. Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake.

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    It is criminal, but you could look at it like this: the de facto "sentencing guidelines" recommend on-the-spot penalties over actual prosecution. Anyway, more importantly, when driving in the UK beware that many older drivers (and some younger drivers, who apparently learnt motorway driving from their older parents), seem oblivious to lane discipline and will happily sit in the middle lane the whole time because "they're not driving a lorry". They apparently don't read the news either, unaware of the fine and 3-point penalty. Don't be tempted to follow suit — instead, give them a big honk! Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 8:23
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    I think that using your horn in a non-dangerous situation is also technically not allowed. Just overtake them and then move into the left lane - sometimes they take the hint.
    – CMaster
    Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 9:08
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit, ah, the balance between hogging the middle lane and weaving in and out. It's not possible to satisfy everyone. (My equivalent pet hate is when you end up stuck behind a lorry because you pulled in and can't get a gap to pull out again because people grab that lane from 1/4 mile before they reach you). Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 11:11
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    @ChrisH: Don't hog the middle lane, and don't weave in and out!! Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 11:22
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    @simbabque possibly true but the 10% rule of thumb is before they'll even stop you, and a lot of speed enforcement is automated anyway. I did have a speeding ticket from a camera in Germany follow me to the UK, but after writing back querying it in English never heard from them again. Commented Oct 2, 2015 at 11:22

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