We’ve all experienced width restrictions while on the road, those cheeky sets of
bollards can pop up out of nowhere so hopefully you are more than capable of dealing
with them to ensure you don’t leave a nasty dent or scrape on your car. If you are
learning with Fineline Driving Academy, or you passed with us then you would have
already had extensive practise where width restrictions are concerned. Many test
centres in the west London area have been incorporating width restrictions into
the driving test to ensure learners can deal with them safely, unfortunately some
driving schools don’t go over these hazards enough and therefore plot their learners
downfall when they pop up on the driving test. Use this guide to dealing with width
restrictions provided by Fineline Driving Academy to help to safely negotiate width
restrictions on the road.
Why are they there?
Lets start with some background information regarding width restrictions, why are
they even there to start with? Maybe they are a traffic calming measure or just
a way to encourage the general driving public to buy smaller cars so they can zip
through them? The actual reason they are implemented into UK roads is that they
enforce a specified maximum vehicle width, (and in some cases weight as well), to
ensure that larger vehicles do not use inappropriate roads/routes.
Sometimes drivers of larger vehicles might fancy a shortcut to shave off a sizable
chunk of their journey time, but these shortcuts can include roads which are too
small for large vehicles to negotiate or through areas where there are vast amounts
of pedestrians. Some other reasons for the use of width restrictions are to prevent
damage that larger vehicles might cause to the road, or to manage congestion in
How do you know when a width restriction is approaching?
The simple answer is that there will be plenty of notice in the form of clearly
visible signposts. On the approach to a width restriction, or before turning into
a road which has a width restriction you will see signs in good time to prevent
unsuitable vehicles from committing to the road. The sign will look something similar
to figure 1 or figure 2 below;
Figure 1: Width restriction on next left turn
Figure 2. 7'0" width restriction warning sign
If you drive a small/medium car then negotiating through a width restriction should
not be a problem, there will be a clear sign denoting the maximum width of vehicle
permitted to pass which is normally 6’-6” as shown in figure 1 or 7’-0” in some cases. Drivers of some larger vehicles such as 4 x 4’s or people carriers are also
permitted however should drive with caution as their vehicles are larger, drivers
of vans up to 3.5 tonnes must take initiative and consider each width restriction
on its own circumstances. Sometimes the bollards are high and therefore wing mirrors
on vans won’t pass but your vehicle will, if this is the case then an alternative
route should be considered. Figure 3 below shows a typical width restriction:
Figure 3: Typical width restriction
How to safely negotiate width restrictions
The key to dealing with width restrictions isn’t rocket science, firstly you need
to know that one is approaching and the only way to do that is remain vigilant of
road signs at all times just as any responsible driver should. On the approach to
a width restriction, you should select 1st gear if you have a manual car and drive
at a pace no faster than 5mph, once this speed and gear is in use you should shape
your vehicle up as if you are parking (check out our parking tutorial for help with
parking). This means ensuring your car is nice and close to the nearside kerb and
also straight, if you are a reasonably close distance to the kerb then you will
be within a safe distance from the nearside bollard as well as the offside bollard
to pass through smoothly. DO NOT TURN WHILST PASSING THROUGH THE WIDTH RESTRICTION,
unless it is a bendy width restriction like that shown in figure 4 below where steering
Figure 4: Bent width restriction where steering is required
Most damage to vehicles caused by width restrictions is unnecessary steering whilst
in the middle causing the back of the vehicle to inadvertently make contact with
a bollard. Keeping straight throughout the width restriction will prevent any damage
to your vehicle, take a look at the tutorial video below created by Fineline Driving
Academy which highlights our instructions on dealing with width restrictions.
Notice the timing of the 1st gear selection, and the use of the blind spot mirror to get close to the kerb. Once you are nice and close to the kerb (without being too close), you should keep your car straight and look ahead at the width restriction whilst passing through slowly.
FINELINE’s step by step guide to dealing with width restrictions
Just to make entirely sure that we’ve helped you deal with any future width restrictions
safely, and if our thorough talk through and video tutorial wasn’t enough, take
a look at our signature step by step guide to clear up any confusion that might
still be lurking!
1) Remain vigilant at all times for road signs as any width restriction will be
clearly signposted in good time and make sure your vehicle is suitably sized for
the restriction shown. If it isn’t suitably sized, you should seek an alternative
2) On the approach to a width restriction select first gear and adopt a speed of
no more than 5mph, don’t do this too early as this can cause problems for tailing
traffic, select this speed/gear around 6 to 8 metres before the width restriction.
3) Shape your vehicle up as if you are parking, ensuring your vehicle is reasonably
close to the nearside kerb and your vehicle is straight.
4) Pass through with the car nice and straight, once passing the width restriction
you should check your mirrors and adjust your speed accordingly.