If you’re someone who feels anxiety, stress, or fear when faced with the prospect of driving on a motorway, then this article is for you. Even if you’re an experienced driver, you may find out something you didn’t know! Below, I’ve listed 7 of my top tips for driving on motorways.
Generally speaking, the traffic will move to make space for you, but you need be prepared to slow down to fit behind another vehicle.
The 'Fast Lane' Myth
First, let’s get something straight:
There’s no such thing as a fast lane.
There’s no such thing as a slow lane.
The lanes on a motorway are called lane one, lane two and lane three. That’s it.
Only overtake when it’s safe and legal to do so. Never overtake on the left (otherwise known as undertaking).
Once you’ve overtaken, you should move back into the left lane (lane 1). Hogging the middle lane is not only bad form, it’s an offence.
Above: In this case, Lane 1 = left hand lane. Lane 2 = middle lane. Lane 3 = right hand lane.
New penalties to tackle tailgating and middle lane hogs came in in 2013 under a new careless driving fixed penalty offence.
Check Your Blind Spots
If you’re moving from the left-hand lane towards the right, take extra care. There may be a car moving from the right-hand lane to the middle at the same time… or vice versa!
Above: Imagine you were in the blue car about to move into the middle lane. You check your mirrors, and think it’s safe. However, the yellow car is also moving into the middle lane! To overcome this danger, a very quick glance over your shoulder will enable you to see an area which isn’t visible even in your mirrors: your “blind spot”
Check Your Speed
For car drivers, the motorway speed limit is 70mph but it can change several times on one stretch of road, particularly in the event of roadworks or an accident. So stay observant and look out for signs indicating speed limit changes and warning signs, used in the event of adverse weather, congestion, accidents, or roadworks.
Above: Watch out for variable speed limits on smart motorways like the M6. These are a measure by the Highways Agency to help ease traffic flow at busy times.
Failing to Prepare...
… is preparing to fail.
Motorways cover hefty distances, often with 20+ miles in between exits, so you don’t want to be caught off-guard and end up stranded on the hard shoulder. Here are some things you should consider checking up on, before going onto a motorway:
The Two-Second Rule
With cars travelling at such high speeds you need to allow far more space to stop. Follow the 2 second rule to ensure there is a suitable safety gap between you and the car in front.
To check your safety gap, simply choose a fixed point such as a lamp post or bridge and when the car in front passes it, start counting 2 seconds. As you finish speaking you should be reaching that same point.
Using Hazard Lights
This is where cars slow down to stare at accidents on the other side of the motorway – this causes congestion and another accident!