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Driving in the UK

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Driving in the United Kingdom will be your biggest challenge while stationed here. For most Americans, this is your first time driving on the other side of the road. Driving here is a challenge and requires complete concentration by the driver.

Driver Training
As a member of USAFE, you must have a USAFE permit to drive in the UK. To obtain this permit, you will need to attend Local Conditions Drivers Training within 15 days of arrival, after completing some initial training which is available through the Base Intranet. The training will form part of your in-processing and this will be arranged by your unit Orderly Room. The training has been designed to give you enough information to get in your vehicle and learn to safely drive in the United Kingdom. Please ensure that your license is still valid before you arrive in the UK, and you can prepare for the written test by studying the UK Highway code using the appropriate link below. You will not be able to collect your vehicle from the port until you've received the USAFE permit.

Free 'hands-on' training!
Driving in the UK is very challenging and 100% concentration behind the steering wheel is a must. If you are leery about driving in the UK, Royal Air Force (RAF) Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath have partnered with a British company called ACCIDONT Inc. from Norwich. ACCIDONT will take you on a guided tour of the local roadways and even let you drive during the trip! It's a great way to familiarize yourself with the local area and its driving hazards. This FREE training offers classroom instructions and hands on driving to all assigned RAF Mildenhall military and civilian personnel, to include spouses. The classroom sessions will be conducted in Bldg 538, Wing Safety Training Room and the driving sessions will begin in the Smokehouse Hotel parking lot off-base. Below is a breakdown of the class dates and times.

Civilian Personnel and Spouses:
1st and 3rd Wednesday (Subject to change)
Classroom Session: 0730-0830
Driving Session: 0845, 1100, 1345

Active Duty Personnel:
Scheduled Thursdays and Fridays
Classroom session: 0730-0830 (Thursday only)
NOTE: Classroom session is for both Thurs and Friday's Driving Session.
Driving Session: 0845, 1100, 1345 (Thursday) and 0800, 1030, 1330 (Friday)

For more information, contact the 100th Air Refueling Wing Safety office at DSN 238-2255/2140/2142/4717 or email 100 ARW/SEG.

In addition to the training, there are numerous driving schools available in the local area for a nominal fee. If you feel your need the additional training and are willing to pay for it out of your own pocket, the best place to find these schools is in the classified section of the base newspaper "The Marauder". The paper is distributed every Friday and lists several schools available in the local area. If you cannot find a suitable school in the paper you can always try looking at local off-base weekly publications such as the Bury Free Press and Newmarket Journal, or search the Internet for driving schools in East Anglia
If you take the time to learn the rules for the road and apply them, you should have no problems adjusting the local area. We do highly suggest that you stay in the local area until you have mastered the rules. The bigger cities are extremely congested and driving in these cities is extremely nerve racking no matter how much experience you have.

Requirements for Driving in the UK

Driving Licence. Please ensure that your license is still valid before you arrive in the UK.
You must have a valid signed driving license for the category of vehicle you are driving, and inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) if you change your name and address.
Insurance. You must have a valid insurance certificate covering you for at least third party liability. You must not drive a vehicle without insurance.
Vehicle Inspection (Ministry Of Transportation) What is an MOT? The MOT is a bumper to bumper safety test. It is very involved and complex and is not an easy test to pass. The MOT test itself takes about 45 minutes and the cost is about £40 or its dollar equivalent at the going exchange rate. The MOT applies to all vehicles more than 3 years old. The MOT certificate is good for 12 months and then must be retested. You must have an MOT test and have passed in order to drive on British roads. Driving an unroadworthy vehicle may invalidate your insurance. As an exception to this, you may drive to a pre-arranged test appointment or to a garage for repairs required for the test.

What should the guidelines be when deciding whether or not to bring an older vehicle to the UK? The general rule is if you don't think your car will pass this test, it might be a good idea to consider the cost and length of time it would take to get the parts to repair it (generally from the States). A good rule of thumb is any car 10 years or older, unless a classic, would be best left in the States.

A new requirement for vehicles less than three years old is the Single Vehicle Approval (SVA). The SVA is a one time requirement on concession vehicles imported into the United Kingdom less than three years old. The MOT and SVA are similar safety inspections. On passing one of these tests, a certificate will be issued by the testing station.

You will need to bring this certificate along with U.K. insurance certification or a cover note, U.S. or foreign registration document and the pink C and E 941 to Pass and Registration. If you are driving in from another European location, you will not have to have the C and E 941. Once you have picked up your vehicle from the port, you have 72 hours to initiate the registration process. If your vehicle is under 3 years old, it must be safety inspected at the base Auto Hobby Shop. The inspection certificate and documents mentioned above must be taken to Pass and Registration.

MOT Light Conversion All vehicles built after 1 April 1981 must have a fog light, mounted at the rear of the vehicle, centered to the right hand side of the vehicle. Also, the light control switch must light up when the fog light is on and must be seen from the driver's seat.

Parking lights must be white, not amber. The headlights in the UK are angled differently than in the States because of driving on the other side of the road. It is suggested that the re-aiming of your lights be done when you arrive in the UK.

All vehicles built after 1 April 1986 must have a side repeater. A side repeater is a separate turn signal in the fender that can be seen from the driver side door. In most cases this means drilling holes in the fender of approximately 3/4 inch. Wraparound lights may substitute for the side repeater in some models.

All rear turn signals must flash amber, and must not adversely affect any other light (brake light, parking light). Very few American vehicles meet the standards for light requirements in the UK. The price for a light conversion costs from $185 - $250, depending on the vehicle

Vehicle Registration Document. Registration documents are issued for all motor vehicles used on the road, describing them (make, model, etc.) and giving details of the registered keeper. You must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency in Swansea as soon as possible when you buy or sell a vehicle, or if you change your name or address. For registration documents issued after 27 March 1997 the buyer and seller are responsible for completing the registration documents. The seller is responsible for forwarding them to DVLA. The procedures are explained on the back of the registration documents.

Road Tax / Vehicle Excise Duty. All vehicles used or kept on the roads must have a valid Vehicle Excise Duty disc (tax disc) displayed at all times. Any vehicle exempt from duty must display a nil licence. Air Force members with one vehicle in the family can get reimbursed through Finance after you have paid for a full year's road tax. Mil-to-mil couples can get reimbursed for two vehicles in the family.

License plates. The Road Traffic Act requires all vehicles registered in the UK to possess two registration (license) plates. Those that do not can be fined. Don't forget to hand carry your stateside license plates with you. You will put your stateside plates on your POV until your vehicle meets the requirements to get your British license plates. Also check your drivers license prior to your departure to ensure they will not expire while your in the overseas area

Offense to use hand-held phone while driving. It is an offense in the UK to use a hand-held phone, or similar device, when operating a motor vehicle. The penalty is a minimum £30 pound sterling fixed penalty or up to £1,000 pounds sterling upon conviction in court. It is expected that penalties will increase in the future. The minimum penalty could soon increase to a minimum of £60 pounds sterling for the first offense. The regulations apply to "hand-held-phones or similar device" (Cell Phones are hand held devices).

Access information about the Highway Code and road safety at the following web sites:

Motorcycle Requirements
If you are a motorcyclist or think you might be interested in motorcycling while stationed in Europe, there are a few things you should know first before making any riding plans or financial obligations. You must complete a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) approved safety course in order to get the required motorcycle endorsement on your USAFE driver's permit before you can ride your motorcycle in Europe. The frequency and availability of student slots are limited. You are highly encouraged to attend one of these safety courses the MSF offers at your stateside location prior to PCSing here to avoid any unnecessary delays in licensing. See your base safety office for details.

Additionally, it is recommended that you obtain the following Personnel Protective Equipment for use within the UK:
- Brightly colored reflective vest which is clearly visible, examples include Day-glo green, yellow or orange, use of reflective belts does not qualify as a vest.
- DOT approved helmet (or host nation equivalent)
- Impact resistance goggles / full face shield
- Long sleeve shirt / jacket, full-fingered gloves or mittens and long pants
- Sturdy footwear, leather or over the ankle shoes are encouraged

Motorcycle refresher training is required every three years.