How to Deal With
Driving On Motorways
Take our Motorway Quiz and see how well you know the rules of the Motorway.
Many new drivers worry about their first time alone on a motorway.
Motorways are safer, than normal roads, but they are also faster. Sometimes things do happen quicker, and you have to concentrate all the time.
When you are on the main carriageway of the motorway, remain in the first lane until you get used to the speed. If you need to overtake you must return to the first lane as soon as possible but only if its safe to do so! Many motorists try to stay in the overtaking lanes for normal driving. This is bad practice and causes inconvenience and tailbacks and annoys other users.
There are two types of motorway, rural and urban. You need to think of them as quiet and busy. Quiet motorways are boring, so you need to concentrate on the road and traffic conditions way ahead. Busy motorways need your attention all around you rather than just focused ahead.
Motorways are like dual carriageways only safer. They are safer because every motorway user is travelling in the same direction and at similar speeds. Another reason why motorways are safer is due to the fact that traffic is restricted to those who can make best use of it i.e. no pedestrians, cyclists, moped, no L drivers (except HGV), agricultural vehicles, and animals. Motorways are also safer because there are no sharp bends, no oncoming traffic, no right turn, and no roundabouts. The lanes are always wide, and well marked, and are usually straight for long distances.
Remember you are not allowed to reverse, cross the central reservation, or to drive in the wrong direction on motorways.
On urban (busy) motorways each lane of traffic has an electronic signal system which applies to traffic in each lane. Care needs to be taken to make sure you know the various signals and what they mean. Motorway signs are being used with increasing frequency to warn you of hold ups or accidents ahead.
When joining a motorway you usually join from a roundabout or a main road by means of a slip road. This leads to an acceleration lane. The rule here is not to interfere with the traffic already on the motorway. Make sure your speed is the same as the traffic already on the motorway. Vehicles already on the motorway usually realise you need to join the main carriageway and they try and move over to the other lane. (This is not always possible if the traffic is busy). This makes room for you to join the first lane of the motorway. Mirrors and signals must be used correctly to avoid interfering with the following traffic. Full and proper observation as you enter usually involves looking over your right shoulder as well as using your door mirrors. Don't rely on mirrors alone.
To get off the motorway the normal procedure is to look for the first advance warning sign (1 mile from the exit). This sign gives the exit number and the road number.
At half a mile from the exit a second sign identifies the towns for the exit.
Then at 300 yards from the deceleration lane there is a three line countdown marker, (at this point you should begin to signal left to say you are turning off - but don't slow down yet), followed by the 200 yd and 100 yd marker signs. Only when you have crossed into the deceleration lane should you begin to slow down.
Once you get back on to ordinary roads again, you need to watch your speed until you are acclimatised to the new lower speeds on the road. Don't forget too, that these roads are likely to have roundabouts, oncoming traffic, and sharp bends on them.
Breaking Down on the Motorway
Video Lesson - When to Use the Motorway Hard Shoulder
Hopefully if your vehicle is well maintained and fuelled up, you should be in no danger of breaking down on the motorway, but we all know that even a car which is only a few hours old can still break down.
If you do break down then the hard shoulder is there to help you. When you are stopping on the hard shoulder (remember, only use the hard shoulder in an emergency), try to stop at one of the emergency telephones. This will save you time if you have to walk to the phone. Switch on your hazard lights and try to stop as near to the left as possible. If you have passengers get them out of the car, off the hard shoulder, and as far away from danger as possible. Do this before you go to use the phone. The phone is always within half a mile from any spot on the motorway.
Look at the arrows on the nearest post, like the one in the picture on the left. These will tell you the direction to walk to the nearest phone. The phones are free to use, and connect you straight to the police who control that stretch of motorway. When you return to your vehicle to wait for help, do not get back into the car, but stay on the embankment, or as far away from the traffic as possible. If you have a mobile phone it's O.K. to use this initially, but the police do prefer you to use the roadside phones to confirm your exact location.
Remember that motorways are safe, but they are fast, you need to concentrate because things happen quicker than a normal road.
Video Lesson - Lane discipline on Motorways
When driving along motorways always remain in the left lane unless you are travelling faster than traffic ahead of you and it is safe to move over to the right lanes. If you use these lanes you must return to the left lane as soon as it is safe to do so.
It is bad practice to try and stay in the overtaking lanes for normal driving. This annoys other users because they can see that you are avoiding the empty lanes on the left, or never using your mirrors to see the tailbacks that you are causing. Remember the two-second rule. Four seconds will give you time to react easily and you will be more relaxed.
Video Lesson - Motorway Red X with Flashing Red Lights
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