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What’s wrong with middle lane hogging?

Drivers who ‘hog’ the middle lane on the motorway can now be fined £100 and given points on their driving licence.

Middle lane hogging is a practice that’s gone on for years. It is commonplace, the left hand lane is left empty but cars still sit in the middle lane instead of using it for overtaking.

Middle Lane Hogging

In Section 264 of the Highway Code, it says “You should always drive in the left – hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower – moving vehicles, you should return to the left –hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow – moving or speed – restriced vehicles should always remain in the left –hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.”

The Highways Agency did attempt to alert drivers in 2004 with signs urging people to keep left, but 9 years later the problem has not been solved.

Undertaking (overtaking to the left of a car) is a frequent bugbear of motorway driving, but yet many drivers don’t see the dangers it causes. Failure to comply with the Highway Code will not cause prosecution but may be used in evidence and court proceedings under the Traffic Acts to establish liability*.

The government has now outlined plans to ensure that middle lane hoggers will be subject to a £100 fine on the spot and points on their licence.

But what are middle hoggers actually doing wrong?

The answer is:-
• It’s against the Highway Code.
• It causes congestion
• It can cause dangerous manoeuvres

Edmund King, the president of the AA says the simple reason why it is wrong is because “it causes congestion.”

According to research by the RAC Foundation, King says it wastes a third of motorway capacity.

Essentially, it means that the slowest, inside lane is under – used and the remaining traffic is primarily in the middle and outside lanes.

“It’s a particular problem where we’ve widened motorways to four lanes because the middle lane hoggers can take up two lanes.”

It may be controversial suggesting the extent, lane hoggers cause congestion. However, Benjamin Heydecker, professor of Transport Studies at the University College London, has looked at the impact it has. He says “We expected to find a big reduction in capacity. But the answer was surprisingly small.”

It is possible that drivers are looking at a three – lane motorway and assume that the middle lane is not in use. That would be true if the lane hoggers were stationary. But they are still moving relatively fast.
“They are moving, so if the traffic is concentrating behind them you still have flow.”

People who suggest that middle – lane hoggers cut capacity by a third are wrong. They do affect the carrying capacity of a road because they are forcing people behind to change lanes, he says.
Ronghui Liu, at the Institute for Transport Studies believes it ultimately depends on the level of traffic. At peak times, you ideally want traffic spread evenly between the 3 lanes, she argues.

The M25 is a perfect example of this as variable speed limits are in force the majority of the time. There is no moving between lanes and the maximum amount of traffic fits on to the road, moving in line with the variable speed limit set.

However, on a busy motorway, lane hogging might be a problem, she says. People who would have the opportunity to overtake cannot do so.

In France, anybody who is in the middle lane unnecessarily will be flashed or tailgated. Lane hogging is not common in Germany either.

Liu says “Lane hogging is just not seen on a German autobahn, which functions very well without a mandatory speed limit and with fewer lanes, often just two”.

Congestion isn’t the only factor in lane hogging. Quentin Wilson suggests it makes other drivers angry and forces them to weave in and out of traffic.

“You take umbrage because you know they’re muppets who don’t understand how the motorway works. There is a grammar to driving on the motorway. You stay left, overtake when necessary and then move into the left – hand lane. That’s what the Highway Code says – its’ a way of allowing the traffic to travel at the optimum speed.”

An issue of this magnitude comes down to safety. Benjamin Heydecker says “While he doesn’t accept that lane hoggers significantly reduce motorway capacity, they do raise drivers’ blood pressure by their behaviour.”

“The lane hogger is not doing themselves much good but they’re also preventing the people following them from doing what they want to do. The issue is inconsiderate, selfish behaviour.”

Source:- BBC Magazine

*This is relevant only to ‘under-taking’

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