Legal Answers & Advice for 4x4s, SUV’s and Green Laning
The 4×4 and SUV market is forever growing and many motorists purchase these beasts to experience the thrill of some off-road adventures. If the most excitement you see in your 4×4 is a full load of shopping on the way back from the supermarket then it may be time to put it through its paces
Hopefully these tips will help you prep for the adventure and keep your vehicle legal.
This is the term used to describe driving on what are traditionally un-surfaced lanes, trails or tracks that are open for motorised vehicles. They can sometimes be known as byways, they are often overgrown, country roads off the beaten track. The official term is actually BOATs (Byways Open To All Traffic or UCRs (Unclassified Country Roads) – which is quite the mouthful so we will stick with Green Lanes!
Common questions we receive are:
Do I need Tax, MOT and a driving licence to drive a green lane?
Despite their often beaten-up appearance, green lanes are still legally public highways and are therefore subject to the same laws and traffic orders as any other roads you drive on in your day to day life. You need tax, insurance, MOT and of course a driving licence. Driving off-road without any of these will render you liable to prosecution.
Can I drive any green lane?
To make things a little more complicated, not all green lanes are open to general traffic and some of them have a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) on them. The onus is on you as the motorist to check whether the green lane is open to traffic or not and we would recommend checking the Traffic Regulation Order Library (you can Google it) before you partake in any off-roading.
How Do I Find Green Lanes?
There are several clubs around the country that organise regular off-roading events and if you’re in a big city such as London, you can probably find a club relatively near to you.
Can I go green laning on my own?
You can but it’s not advisable. As stated above, the same laws regulate these roads as any other and if you’re not used to navigating the unstable terrain you might be involved in an accident. You can still be charged with careless and/or dangerous driving so it’s better to have a more experienced companion with you initially.
Furthermore, if you’re alone and you experience any difficulties with your vehicle (flat tyre, engine trouble etc) it’s better to know help may be nearby to assist you.
Do I need any special equipment?
We’ve written previous articles about how to prepare for certain journeys and the same apply here. It’s always advisable to have a mobile phone and charge, first aid kit, food and blankets in case you’re temporarily stranded, spare tyre(s), car jack etc. Should also make all the usual maintenance checks prior to your journey (oil, water, tyre pressure etc) and consider taking an actual A-Z (remember those?!) in the event you have poor mobile reception for Google maps! Unlike most journeys, we would also recommend packing a shovel. The muddy terrain you find yourself in may mean you need to literally dig yourself out of trouble on occasion.
The most common misconception about off-roading is that you’re not on a “public road”. We have taken several enquiries from motorists charged with speeding, drink driving, being drunk in charge of a vehicle, careless driving etc and one of the common responses we hear is “but I was on private land”.
You should always err on the side of caution and ultimately, if anybody else has access to the land and/or roads then for the purposes of road traffic law it will be considered a public place/highway.
If off-roading with friends in numerous vehicles, we would also advise caution when driving in a convoy. Motorcyclists are often charged with driving offences when they travel in a “pack” as other road users may be intimidated and/or inconvenienced by them all travelling together. Whilst it may be tempting to ride alongside 10 of your buddies in your 4x4s, just ensure you all drive safely and remain respectful of other road users. The mini cooper next to you might not feel quite as safe alongside or in front of a line of 4x4s!
Finally, we also recommend you remain mindful about modifications. “Suping up” your vehicle might be a huge part of the fun but even when off-roading it must remain compliant with laws and regulations. Tinted windows, alloys, interior lighting, spoilers and roof racks etc must all be compliant to avoid causing inconvenience or distraction to other road users.
Green laning is fun but there are risks as there is with any journey so have fun, but stay safe. If you do end up in a legal pickle, we are on-hand for free advice!