Driving on the motorway for the first time can be rather daunting. With a high average travelling speed, it's the speed you're travelling at which can make all the difference between safe and unsafe motorway driving. One of the big advantages of driving on the motorway is that all the traffic is heading in the same direction. However, factors such as having multiple lanes can make driving on the motorway more complex.
Here's a quick refresher on how to stay safe when it comes to joining and leaving motorways, overtaking, overhead signs and signals, and why you need to beware of foreign lorries.
1. Joining and leaving the motorway
Before joining the motorway, ensure that you build up your speed on the slip road. Give priority to those vehicles already on the motorway and once you've found a suitable gap, merge safely into the traffic flow, adjusting your speed if necessary. When it comes to exiting the motorway, you should move into the left-hand lane in plenty of time. You should indicate your intention to leave the motorway at the latest when you’re passing the 300-yard marker) using your left indicator and when it is safe move onto the exit slip road.
2. Getting ahead
You should only ever overtake when it's safe to do so and once you've overtaken, you should move back into the left lane. It's crucial to judge the speed of the vehicles around you before you do so and check that the lane you're moving into is clear in front and behind you. If you’re moving from the right-hand lane towards the left, take extra care, as there could potentially be a vehicle moving from the left-hand lane to the middle at the same time. Safety first so don't forget to check your blind spot and signal in plenty of time.
3. Look who's watching
Speed is everything when you are driving on the motorway and driving too fast or too slow can increase the risk that you'll have an accident or that you'll cause an accident. By default, the speed limit on a motorway is 70mph and it's extremely important to keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Some motorways use an Active Traffic Management system, also known as smart motorways, which have a number of speed cameras in the overhead gantries and if you're caught speeding then you could face a hefty fine - at least 150% of your weekly salary.
4. Lane discipline
A source of great irritation for many drivers on the road are those who hog the middle lane. Middle-lane hogging is not only frustrating but is also dangerous and illegal too. According to rule 264 of the Highway Code, when driving in a three-lane motorway, you should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. Middle-lane hogging can cause congestion during busy periods, as traffic funnels through the outside lane to pass those who are lane hogging. Although middle-lane hoggers are annoying, you should resist the urge to react and don't let road rage take over you.
5. Keep an eye out
When driving on the motorway there's no doubt that you'll come across a plethora of signs and messages. The most important signs are motorway signals and variable signs. Signals and variables may apply to individual lanes when mounted overhead or, when located on the central reservation or at the side of the motorway, to the whole carriageway. Keep an eye out for traffic information, which is usually displayed on large electronic boards at the side of the motorway as they will inform you of any accidents or roadworks ahead.
6. Foreign lorries
When travelling on the motorway you should beware of foreign lorries. With a left-hand drive and blind spots on their right-hand passenger side, when it comes to changing lanes, foreign lorries more often than not, fail to see other vehicles in the lane that they are entering. As you can imagine, this is extremely hazardous and this is something that other road users need to beware of. With this in mind, never drive too close to a foreign lorry, keep a safe distance and make sure you give yourself plenty of space.
If you're on the motorway and you find yourself braking rather frequently, then you're probably travelling too close to the vehicle in front of you. With vehicles travelling at such high speeds on the motorway follow the two-second rule to ensure that you maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. Keep your braking smooth and progressive as it's important that you don't cause other drivers to panic brake behind you.
8. Hard shoulder
Once you're on the motorway, there's no stopping (except in an emergency where you can use the hard shoulder). The hard shoulder must only be used in the event of an emergency, for example, to let vehicles out of the flow of traffic in case of an accident or breakdown. Remember, the hard shoulder is a dangerous place to be and if you find yourself in an emergency situation, exit your vehicle on the passenger side and step over the crash barrier to ensure that you are a safe distance away from your vehicle.