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Motorways are Britain’s fastest roads yet, surprisingly, they are also some of our safest. Thankfully pile-ups are not as common as news headlines might suggest but when there is a major crash, this can be devastating both for those involved, their families and even the drivers and passengers who witness the accident.
Although many people know how to drive sensibly on the motorway and understand the basics of staying safe, we can all benefit from revisiting advice on safe motorway driving.
It is a strange quirk of UK law that you are not allowed on the motorway as a learner, yet as soon as you pass your test you get unrestricted access. In December 2011, Transport Minister, Mike Penning, proposed that learners should have limited access to motorways under strict supervision, but these changes have yet to come into force. Until they do, it is well worth investing in a couple of extra lessons once you have passed your test, just to teach you the essentials of motorway driving.
The single biggest factor in driving safely on the motorway is to keep your distance and anticipate the road well ahead of your current position. At 70mph, you are travelling at around 35 yards a second, so you need to think well ahead. However, if you find yourself getting too close, you should avoid braking suddenly to slow down as this causes others to brake and can lead to tailgating. Use the two second rule – keep two seconds behind the car in front and ease off the accelerator if you start creeping towards one second.
You should try and stay in the left hand lane of a motorway as much as possible, using the centre and outside lanes for overtaking only. It is permissible to stay in the centre lane if traffic in the left lane is busy and slow moving. If traffic is heavy, you should avoid zigzagging in and out of lanes. Most accidents happen when vehicles change lane, so you need to balance the risk of lane switching with the stay left rule. When passing a busy junction, you should move across to allow others to join the carriageway safely.
Plenty of information is available to keep you safe on the motorway, including dot-matrix warning signs. You should always take heed of warnings such as speed restrictions, even if the hazard is not immediately apparent. Driving along and finding out that the hazard has passed is mildly inconvenient and better than travelling faster and coming to an incident too quickly to react safely.
The edges of the carriageway are marked to help you to orientate yourself in the dark or poor weather, with coloured reflectors:
If you breakdown on the motorway make sure you follow these steps: