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Most important British road acronyms for new drivers to be aware of

By Tom Gibson | July 14, 2023


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Whether learning to drive or have just passed your test, there are so many things to consider. Gradually over time, important factors such as mirror, signal, manoeuvre become second nature, but initially it can all be a complete brain overload.

And to make matters worse, the industry, be it the Government or manufacturers do love their acronyms. And to any new driver, these can add extra pressure trying to fathom them out.

So, we have collated a few examples that may help along the way.

Firstly, let’s look at what you may face when researching a new car. With a view to the future, electrification is high on the agenda, so expect to see EV (electric vehicle), PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric vehicle), MHEV (mild hybrid electric vehicle), and BEV (battery electric vehicle).

Next you might be faced with AWD, RWD or FWD – these are easily translated into all-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive, and front-wheel drive.

The style of a car can add further confusion – SUV for example stands for Sport Utility Vehicle while CUV is short for Crossover Utility Vehicle and watch out for transmission names such as CVT (continuously variable transmission) and DSG (direct shift gearbox).

The list of safety acronyms still sometimes leaves me with a puzzled expression and I’ve been in this business for a while now. So here are some more common examples. ABS is anti-lock braking system, ESC is electronic stability control, AEB is autonomous emergency braking, ACC is adaptive cruise control, LKA is lane keep assist while LDW is lane departure warning. RCTA is a rear cross traffic alert and BLIS is a blind spot indication system. There are lots, lots more.

Then out on the road, you may come across other road signs, especially near London such as ULEZ – this is an ultra-low emission zone or CAZ which is a clean air zone, and expect a bill if you venture into a CGZ congestion charge zone or ZEZ – zero emission zones. The worst affected by the increase in these zones are the HGV drivers – that’s heavy goods vehicle by the way and LGVs (light goods vehicles). And even PHVs or private hire vehicles face charges too. And if you ever wondered how they kept track, there are ANPRs everywhere – they are the automatic number plate recognition cameras.

A chat with a collector and they will often say their classic model is on SORN – basically, it means it has legally been registered to be kept off-road for a certain length of time and it stands for Statutory Off Road Notification. This is completed through the DVLA – one you will all know as that’s where you get your licence from and it’s an abbreviation for the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency

The easiest of them all is mpg which stands for miles per gallon (made confusing by the fact we buy our fuel by the litre at the pumps) but expect to see WLTP a lot these days as it’s the new European lab testing way to measure fuel consumption and carbon emissions – it stands for Worldwide Harmonized Light Vehicles Test Procedure and it replaced the New European Driving Cycle otherwise known as NEDC. We really don’t make life easy for ourselves sometimes.

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