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.
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 Gov.uk
** – SeriousAccidents.com
Motorway sign examples taken from Highway Code UK Know Your Road Traffic Signs Guide