Glossary of American and British Driving Terminology

Please note that American terminology can vary from one state to another and that this glossary is undoubtedly incomplete. Please Contact Us if you can help us add to it.

U.S.A.

U.K.

An “All-Way Stop” (sometimes a.k.a. a 4-Way Stop)A crossroads or multiple junction at which traffic from all directions must stop at a ‘Stop’ sign or a stop line.
Backing UpReversing (Americans seemingly never say “reversing”)
Bathrooms (at a “Rest Area”) —  a.k.a.  “Restrooms”Toilets
BicyclistCyclist
Cargo Van  (see also “Van” and “Mini-Van”)A van for the carriage of goods
Carpool Lane (a.k.a. a ‘Diamond’ or ‘H.O.V.’ Lane)Lanes restricted to vehicles with multiple passengers
CitationBeing reported by the police for a traffic offence
Commuter LaneA central lane which is used for traffic in different directions at different times of day, sometimes between movable concrete barriers  (hence the ‘zipper’ reference, below)
Coupe (pronounced “koop”)Coupé (pronounced ‘koop-ay’)
CrosswalkPedestrian Crossing
CruiserPolice Patrol Car
CurveBend
Diamond Lane (a.k.a. Carpool or H.O.V. Lane)Lanes restricted to vehicles with multiple passengers

DMV is “Dept. of Motor Vehicles”  (also see RMV)

(Issue drivers’ licences and vehicle registrations)
DUIDriving Under the Influence of alcohol
DWAIDriving While Ability Impaired (through alcohol)
DWIDriving While Intoxicated
DirectionalsIndicators
Divided HighwayDual Carriageway
DefoggerHeated Rear Window
(LCV) Double TrailerAn articulated wagon (“tractor-trailer”) with two trailers, in tandem. (Only an LCV if over 80,000 pounds)
Emergency BrakeA misleading name for the Handbrake
Emergency SignalsHazard Lights
ExpresswayMotorway

Flashers (also “Four-Way Flashers” and “Warning Lights)

Hazard Lights
Four-WayCrossroads
Four-Way Stop  (a.k.a. an All Way Stop)A crossroads at which traffic from all directions must stop at a ‘Stop’ sign or a stop line.
FreewayDual Carriageway; usually a Motorway equivalent
Full  (or “Full Service”) at a “Gas Station”Attendants will put your petrol in.   Asking for “ten regular” will get you ten dollars worth, not ten gallons
GasPetrol  (See “Regular”)
Gas Pedal (or just “the gas”)Accelerator
Gas StationPetrol Station
A “Grade”  (often just a “hill”)Hill
H.O.V. (High-Occupancy Vehicle) Lane (q.v. Carpool)Lanes restricted to vehicles with multiple passengers
HighwayThis generally means a dual carriageway of motorway standards but it can also be used for any road with two or more lanes
HoodBonnet
A number, preceded by the letter “I,” such as “I-90”This is an Interstate Highway (q.v.)
IntersectionAny road junction, on major and minor roads
“Interstate,” or “Interstate Highway”Motorway
“Jct 78”  (any number)Sign on the approach to a junction with the relevant road
LCV (“longer combination vehicle”)An articulated wagon (“tractor-trailer”) with either two or three trailers, in tandem.

(“Double Trailers” are only  LCVs if over 80,000 pounds)

LightsTraffic Lights
MedianCentral Reserve
Mini Van  (see also “Van” and “Cargo Van”)A “people carrier” with seats for six or more.
One WayA One-Way Street or, in some states, the correct side of a Divided Highway (q.v.)
ParkwayContrary to what it may sound like, it is a road.
PavementThe road surface. Do not confuse this with Sidewalk!
Pavement MarkingsRoad Markings (But beware! On the approach to ‘Stop’ junctions, etc., these are usually absent. Be vigilant.)
“Pike” (as in, for example, the “Mass. Pike”)See ‘Turnpike’
R.M.V. is “Registry of Motor Vehicles” (see DMV)(Issue drivers’ licences and vehicle registrations)
Railroad CrossingA Railway ‘Level Crossing’
RampThe ‘access’ or ‘exit’ slip-road at an ‘Intersection’
Regular  (in respect of coffee!)With milk and sugar! (Massachusetts)
Regular  (in respect of petrol, or “gas”)Unleaded
Rest AreaUsually a proper ‘Service Area’ (but even on ‘Interstates’, some are only lay-bys with portable toilets — no petrol and no food)
Restrooms (at a “Rest Area”) —  a.k.a.  “Bathrooms”Toilets
RotaryRoundabout (rare or non-existent in many states)
S.U.V. (“Sports Utility Vehicle”)4-by-4’s, often similar to Range Rovers, etc.
SedanSaloon Car
“Self” (at a “Gas Station”)Self-Service Petrol
A “Semi” (pronounced ‘semm-eye’) or an “18-wheeler”Articulated Wagon (a.k.a. as an ‘Artic’)
Semi-trailer (see just “Semi”, above) The trailer from an articulated wagon
ShoulderThe hard shoulder, on the outer edge of the road
SidewalkPavement (but see “Pavement”, above!)
SignalsTraffic Lights
Station Wagon (or just “Wagon”)Estate Car
Stick ShiftEither a manual-transmission car or the actual gear lever
Ticket (a.k.a. a Citation)Being reported for a traffic offence
Generally an airport taxiway or even the runwayTarmac — Americans may look at you very strangely if you talk about driving on it!
Tractor-trailerArticulated Wagon (a.k.a. as an ‘Artic’)
Traffic CircleRoundabout (rare or non-existent in many states)
Traffic SignalsTraffic Lights
(LCV) Triple TrailerAn articulated wagon (“tractor-trailer”) with three trailers, in tandem.
TrunkBoot
Turnpike  (often known as the “Pike”)A toll-road, often of motorway standards
U-TurnA 180º turn (usually in the middle of an intersection!) but be careful, some U.S. states have signs only when this is illegal and in others it is only legal if a sign says youmay do it.
Undivided HighwaySingle Carriageway
Van  (see also “Mini-Van” and “Cargo Van”)A “people carrier” with seats for six or more.
Wagon  (as in “Station Wagon)Estate Car

Warning Lights (also “Four-Way Flashers” and “Flashers”)

Hazard Warning Lights
Western DoubleNickname for an articulated wagon (“tractor-trailer”) with 2 trailers, in tandem (weight under 80,000 pounds)
YieldGive Way
Zipper LaneSee ‘Commuter Lane’

Page last updated February 26, 2004.