Most of the time, you cannot drive in a bus lane. If you’re ever in any doubt as to whether you can drive in a bus lane, you can safely assume that you cannot. However, there are some occasions when it’s perfectly OK to drive in a bus lane. You just have to learn to read the road, and the signs.
We’ve already covered what you should do if you find yourself driving in a bus lane by mistake. Now let’s take a closer look at what the rules have to say about when you can drive in a bus lane.
What Does a Bus Lane Look Like?
Bus lanes are quite hard to miss – the words “Bus Lane” are written across the road, and they’re usually marked with either dashed white lines or solid white lines. Some bus lanes are painted a different colour to the rest of the road surface.
Trust us – if you pay attention to the roads, you’ll have no trouble spotting bus lanes! And nine times out of 10, when you see a bus lane, stay out of it. In the vast majority of cases, these lanes are designed for buses and only buses.
So When Can You Drive in a Bus Lane?
- Pay attention to the lines marking the bus lane – If they’re solid white, stay out. But if they’re dashed, then it’s fine for you to temporarily cross into the bus lane – for making a turn, for instance, or for entering a car park or a loading bay.
- If you hear sirens behind you – You can also temporarily move into the bus lane. But once the approaching police car, ambulance or fire engine has passed, move out of the bus lane as soon as it’s safe to do so. Similarly, so long as the lane’s clear, you can pass into the bus lane if you need to avoid a broken down vehicle, or some debris in the road. But again, you should move out of the bus lane again as soon as possible.
- Lookout for blue signs – these will be placed near the bus lanes. These will clearly indicate the bus lane’s operating hours. If you’re driving outside of these operating hours, then you can use the bus lane without issue. But if you’re driving during these operating hours, stay in your lane.
Blue Bus Lane Signs
Blue bus lane signs will indicate the lane’s operating hours. They also might offer a bit more information about who can and cannot use the lane. It might say that it is just for buses. But it might say that it’s fine for certain road users too, such as cyclists, motorcyclists, and taxi drivers.
But if you see no blue sign? Just assume that the bus lane is out of bounds, no matter what time of day it is.
What If You Drive in a Bus Lane by Mistake?
It happens! You might be in an unfamiliar part of town. You might be tired, stressed, or distracted. You might suddenly find yourself driving in a bus lane. And that, incidentally, is one reason why it’s never a good idea to drive when you’re tired, stressed, or distracted. Because you’re more likely to make mistakes!
So what should you do if you drive in a bus lane by mistake? Easy! Just leave the bus lane as soon as it’s safe to do so.
Penalties and Fines for Driving in a Bus Lane
Of course, having driven in a bus lane, you may soon receive a penalty charge notice (PCN) in the post. This is a fine of up to £160, but you’ll only have to pay half if you pay within 14 days.
We’ve got a detailed guide about what you should do if you drive in a bus lane by accident. Our guide also contains more information about PCNs, and how you can appeal them. You can find our guide here.
Still worried about bus lanes? Don’t be. If you are a learner driver you should be taught all about bus lanes in your lessons. Like with all things road-related, the trick is to pay attention. Look out for road markings and signs. And when in doubt, you can safely assume that any bus lane you find is out of bounds.
One bit of good news, though? Even if you do drive in a bus lane by mistake, your PCN won’t affect the price of your car insurance premium.