Motorway driving can be daunting for new drivers. So much so, in fact, that they may choose to avoid them altogether. But unless you’d prefer a longer, more winding way to get from A to B, motorway driving is kind of a necessity.
While it may seem intimidating, the key to driving on motorways is all about knowing what to expect. To help you improve your confidence behind the wheel, we’ll take a look at what you need to know when it comes to motorway driving – including advice for driving on smart motorways, too.
Before we go any further, it’s well worth explaining what each lane on the motorway is for –especially since there’s a myth or two surrounding them. So, let’s get debunking.
For starters, fast lanes don’t exist. And neither do slow lanes for that matter. Most motorways simply consist of three lanes: lanes one, two and three, which are used as follows:
There are certain vehicles which can’t use lane three of the motorway. These are:
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s start with getting onto the motorway itself.
While it might be tempting to slow down before joining a motorway, doing either of these poses a danger to those around you. Instead, build up speed on the slip road and merge onto the motorway when there’s a safe gap to do so. Be sure to check your blind spot too.
As for leaving a motorway, move over to the correct lane with plenty of time to spare. This way, you don’t have to hastily cut across traffic, which could put others in danger.
The exit will be clearly signposted, with countdown markers showing you how far away you are in 100-yard intervals. Indicate and avoid braking ‘til you’re on the slip road. You’ve now exited the motorway.
For the most part, you’ll be driving in the left-hand lane of a motorway. But if traffic ahead is slow, you’ll need to overtake in lane two. And if traffic is slow in that lane, then you’ll need to use lane three.
But before you do any of that, there are a few things to keep in mind when overtaking on a motorway. First things first, you should only overtake when it’s safe and legal to do so. Also, you should never overtake on the left – a motorway no-no that’s known as undertaking.
After overtaking, move back into the left lane. “Hogging” the middle lane is illegal and could land you with points on your licence if you’re not careful.
When you’re moving from the right-hand lane towards the left, watch out for other cars that may be moving from the left-hand lane to the middle at the same time.
How much distance do you need to keep between you and the car in front when on a motorway? To answer this, we can turn to Rule 126 of the Highway Code, which states you should:
If you’ve only recently passed your test, then motorway driving might make you a little nervous. Ahead of your next journey, calm those nerves with the help of these top tips:
Although smart motorways are something of a thorny issue right now, and the rollout of certain types has been paused, there are still plenty of smart motorways that are in effect across the UK. That’s why it’s vital that drivers know how to use them.
To help you out, here’s a brief primer on what smart motorways are, along with the rules you’ll need to be aware of when driving on them.
A smart motorway is a motorway which authorities actively manage to control the flow of traffic, increase capacity and reduce congestion in busy locations.
They do this by allowing cars to drive on the hard shoulder of motorways during the busiest periods of the day, along with monitoring traffic through the use of smart cameras and ‘active’ gantry signs, changing speed limits and closing lanes at a moment’s notice whenever they need to.
Controlled motorways: The most used smart motorway; the controlled motorway uses variable speed limits, displayed by signs mounted on overhead gantries, to manage the flow of traffic.
By monitoring actual, real-time traffic flow, the speed is set and then adjusted by algorithms which determine when a lower limit should be introduced. This helps to avoid large amounts of traffic from building up.
Hard shoulder running: Hard shoulder running motorways are like controlled motorways, but the main difference between the two is a hard shoulder that opens to traffic in order to create additional capacity. Overhead gantry signs let drivers know whether the hard shoulder is open or closed.
All lane running: On these types of smart motorways, all lanes are open to traffic and there is no hard shoulder. Instead, every 1.5 miles there is an emergency refuge area so that vehicles can pull over and call for assistance should they need it.
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