May 042017

Motorway driving is often part and parcel of an everyday commute in the UK. However, research has shown the amount of careless, poor or even reckless driving on British motorways is too high, with 66,900 reported accidents* occurring on major roads in the UK from October 2015 to September 2016.

Driving on motorways can be stressful at the best of times, which is why we’ve put together some of our top tips to help our readers feel more confident whilst out on the open road.

Safety, Discipline & Etiquette

You often hear complaints of ‘middle-lane hoggers’, which is typical of people not adhering to Highway Code guidelines. If the road ahead is clear, you should always drive in the left-hand lane and when overtaking you should return back to the left as soon as you’re safely past. Contrary to popular belief, the left-hand lane is not simply for HGVs and coaches – everyone should use it. Make sure to indicate and check your mirrors and blind spots when overtaking.

While a hard shoulder might seem like a suitable place to stop, it shouldn’t be used as a rest spot on your journey. You should not use it unless in an event of a breakdown or directed to do so by police, uniformed officers, or by signs. Using this part of the motorway should be an absolute last resort, for a breakdown or emergency.

Common bad practices such as tailgating, undertaking and cutting up other drivers are ill-advised. Tailgating* has been shown to cause one third of all crashes on the road. Such accidents could be easily prevented if enough room was left between cars. The ideal way to judge this is to allow 10 feet of distance between the car in front for every 10mph you are driving.

Fuel efficiency

Motorway driving is the perfect opportunity to operate a vehicle more economically. Not only does it save you money, but you are also helping the environment by reducing emissions. Aggressive braking, accelerating, and frequent gear shifting are all ways to use up fuel unnecessarily. You should maintain a consistent speed for optimum fuel efficiency. If you have an MPG consumption display, pay close attention to it – target your ideal MPG and adjust your speed accordingly to make long-term fuel savings.

Reducing weight by removing roof racks or unnecessary luggage makes a big difference to the amount of fuel used throughout a journey, as does improving aerodynamics by keeping windows and sunroofs closed. By adopting Eco-driving practices in general, you can help reduce wear and tear on your car.

Know your motorway signs

There are certain signs you may be more likely to see on a motorway and it’s worth making sure you remind yourself of these before a journey. For example: amber flashing lights are a warning for a hazard of some kind on the road. If you’re confronted by amber lights, you need to adjust your speed and look out for the hazard until you pass a signal that gives the ‘all clear’ sign.

A potential hazard could be temporary maximum speed limits, lane closures or the need to exit the motorway at the next exit, when accompanied by an arrow pointing to the left.

When following temporary signage on the motorway, signs which have a yellow background and either a hollow black square or circle, or a solid black triangle or diamond shape are symbols which show emergency diversion routes for motorway and other main road traffic.

Adjusting to conditions

Whilst heavy rain and fog are known to create more difficult conditions on roads, some motorists do not always adapt their driving style accordingly. In heavy rain, you must slow your vehicle down and leave more room between the car in front as your stopping distance can increased your control is reduced. At 70mph in good conditions, a car’s stopping distance is 96 metres, or 24 car lengths. In wet conditions this will be at least double, and in icy conditions the overall stopping distance will be at least ten times this.

When it comes to diminished visibility, your fog lights should only be turned on when visibility is below 100 metres. For the benefit of other drivers, it is better not to use rear fog lights, as they can mask your brake lights and dazzle other drivers.

In case of a breakdown

In the event of a breakdown, it’s important to try and get off the motorway if possible. If you can’t, make sure you stop as far left as you can, with the wheels turned left.

Turn your hazards on immediately and if it’s dark or foggy, keep your side lights on. You and any passengers should leave the vehicle using the doors on the left-hand side and stand behind the barrier. You should keep any animals you have with you in the car – even if you have them on a lead there’s a chance they could run off, which could be disastrous for your pet and other traffic.

Don’t attempt to make a repair yourself, but simply call your breakdown provider and request assistance. BreakdownCare Plus from Warranty Direct will provide you with benefits such as roadside assistance and nationwide recovery in the UK, to legal advice and uninsured loss recovery.

* – Based on statistics available at

** –

Motorway sign examples taken from Highway Code UK Know Your Road Traffic Signs Guide

  20 Responses to “Motorway Driving Tips”

  1. To reduce weight and therefore emissions, travel normal journeys with only half a tank of fuel.

    • I like to have a full tank in case of long delays on motorways.

    • Half a tank at say 6 gallons is 0.01 percent of the cars could cost more in detours to fill up than saved in mpg. Slightly slower acceleration and progressive use of the throttle will save .
      I get overall average of 58 mpg on my Zafira including some towing.
      I top up right up to the neck, and don’t fill up until down to 3 litres

  2. How is it possible to hog the centre lane of a motorway? If somebody wants to pass you, the outside lane is available for that purpose. If you came up behind an elderly person while striding down the centre of a pavement you wouldn’t shout at them to get out of your way, you would simply go around them. The Highway Code used to say that motorways had a slow lane, a fast lane and an overtaking lane. Why do they now expect fast drivers to be continuously switching lanes? This is a dangerous practice, particularly at night when it is more difficult to judge distance and closing speeds. Because there is no minimum speed on our motorways, driving at 70 mph in darkness on the inside lane, a moment’s inattention could result in a 40 mph impact into the back of a vehicle doing 30 mph. Even if the hazard is spotted in time, it is likely to result in emergency braking and swerving lane changes to avoid it and this could result in you being hit by someone in the centre lane. The new Highway Code is wrong. If you are going fast, use the centre lane and stay there until you have to overtake or slow down.

    • Paul – you are an idiot and shouldn’t be allowed on the motorway.

      • Not a constructive comment. Please explain your view and reasoning. What Paul says looks reasonable to me.

      • Fran – Not a constructive comment. Please explain your view and reasoning. What Paul says looks reasonable to me.

    • Agree 100 per cent, constantly switching lanes increases the risk of accidents. Using the middle lane and then switching to the outside lane as necessary is the only way to maintain journey times, this is not middle lane hogging it is common sense.

    • If you stick to the middle lane, everybody overtaking has to go to the outside lane, thus according to your “logic” you are making them have more chance of an accident

    • Yes Paul, totally agree. If I’m travelling at 70 mph in the middle lane, what’s the problem? If you want to go faster (naughty, naughty) overtake me using the outside lane. I like the people that drive up really close to you, overtake and then swerve into the inside lane to make a point. I love it when they get stuck there and you sail past them. And yes Cliff, constantly switching lanes is dangerous and rarely gets you anywhere.

      • Can’t believe the comments. Look, Middle lane hogging is wrong. All we have to do is do what the highway code says. Job done. Doesn’t matter if we agree with it or not. We the motorists do not make the rules. I don’t personally agree with the 70mph speed limit, I think it’s outdated. But that doesn’t make it ok for me in the eyes of the law to break it.

    • I agree with you Paul, anyone who driven regularly on motorways knows that constant weaving between lanes is dangerous. I expect that Fran is one of those who wait until you’re about to overtake, then pulls out on you.

    • I think that hogging the central lane of a motorway when the inside lane is clear is now illegal and if it isn’t it should be.

      The highway code requires motorists to return to the nearside lane after overtaking and not provide an obstruction for other vehicles coming up from the rear at a faster pace. Many times I have been travelling at 70 mph with faster traffic coming past me in a stream on the outside and have had to move out two lanes into that faster traffic to overtake some self righteous individual hogging the middle lane; with a clear inside lane. Lane hogging just gets in the way of traffic coming up from the rear and causes frustration in other drivers (hence the cutting across Paul has experienced from overtaking vehicles) and just helps to increase the tension levels of all concerned. Changing lanes when overtaking and returning to the near side is the safe way to go when implemnted smoothly. I just hope that Paul doesn’t find out the hard way that it’s not a good idea to stooge around in the middle lane when someone slams in the back of him or catches him on the way through when they pass him on the inside – neither actions being good ideas of course but why increase the risk of an accident unnecessarily?

  3. What is a normal journey ?
    whenever I embark upon a return journey in excess of 100 miles, I constantly commence my journey with a FULL Tank of fuel. In the past having been caught up in a Motorway accident when the police closed both carriageways to permit the Air Ambulance to land on the Motorway, we were delayed by over 6 hours. If I had started the journey with only half a tank of fuel , more than likely I would have run out of fuel !!
    As I am only 82 years of age, been driving since I was 17 years old I consider I have quite a lot of driving experience and also a Member of Advanced Motorists, employed in the Motor Industry for 50 years om design/development of the internal combustion engine

  4. And risk running out of fuel or having to stop at a Motorway service station and pay inflated prices for fuel. If I am going on a long journey I would fill up before I set off at my preferred fuel station.

  5. I think you SHOULD have mentioned the most important thing before taking on the motorway. This would have been TYRES correctly inflated. I had a lorry sat almost in my boot while I was in the middle lane travelling at 50 MPH through roadworks and the nearside lane was solid traffic moving slower than me.

  6. Some drivers seem to think they don’t have to move out of there (Booked!) lane! I (hopefully) drive according to the highway code and always move to the left, when the lane is clear. While driving at about 65mph why should I have to move out one or sometimes two lanes to overtake a middle lane blocker traveling slower than myself?

  7. I’ve been driving on motorways ever since the first stretch was completed. In my experience, the most hazardous manoeuvre by far, is changing lanes, and as the inside lane is usually heavily populated with lorries etc., it makes sense to me to stay in the middle lane. If you get an impatient driver behind you (and I normally drive up to the limit if possible) I will pull into the left lane ASAP to let it past. If I can see long stretches of the left lane empty (unusual) I’ll pull into there.

  8. Lots of logical opinions, and a few illogical ones too! In the end its all just that: an opinion but the law is the law. Full stop! Often the law is an utter menace and liability for many good honest citizens just trying to live good decent lives. Next question…

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