This weeks Monday Motoring is one of my biggest bones of contention. Motorway Driving. There are very few people out there who have ever had a motorway lesson or understand how to use these types of road.
Surprisingly, motorways are generally safer than the normal roads. They do not incorporate roundabouts, side roads and traffic lights in the way an A or B road would, therefore everyone driving the same way with no one pulling out on you does make for a safer drive. Although it must be taken into account that everything happens quicker as everyone is driving at higher speeds therefore there is a higher risk of fatality if you do have a an accident.
The other reason that motorways are safer is because of the restrictions on the road users able to use them. They do not allow pedestrians, learner drivers, cyclists, mpodes, agricultural vehicles and animals. I think it also goes without saying that you are not allowed to reverse, drive in the wrong direction or cross the central reservation!
There are two types of motorway; urban and rural. Busy or quiet. Both need differents types of concentration. Urban because you need to use your concentration all round and make use of your peripheral vision. Quiet because they are boring and you would need to focus on the road way ahead of you.
Motorway signs are being used increasingly to warn you of hold ups, accidents or general traffic information. These use an electronic signal system and it is important that you know what these mean (take a look at Highway Code Rules 255 to 258).
General rules for the Motorway can be found in the Highway Code under rules 253 to 273. I think that the following rule is a definite discussion point though:
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-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking. You MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, HA traffic officers in uniform or by signs.
Laws MT(E&W)R regs 5, 9 & 16(1)(a), MT(S)R regs 4, 8 & 14(1)(a), and RTA 1988, sects 35 & 186, as amended by TMA 2004 sect
I have lost count the number of times I have seen a congested motorway, particularly on the M25, just because of the ‘middle lane hoggers’. I have to admit to have being guilty in the past of undertaking on the left hand side (never using the hard shoulder though) when I just shouldn’t have! The middle lane hoggers seem to have a complete disregard for the left hand lane, which is, in fact, the proper driving lane on a motorway. The other two lanes are known as the OVERTAKING lanes and should be used as such.
Joining the motorway is something all new drivers should be aware of. You would join the slip road from a roundabout or main road which then leads to an acceleration lane. The rule is not to affect the traffic already on the motorway and to match your speed to theirs. It is important to use your indicators to signal your intention to join the left hand lane. Vehicles should then realise and move to the next lane across to allow you room (this isn’t always possible of course!). Full and proper use of your mirrors and observations – including blind spots – is important at this point.
Leaving the motorway is also a necessary skill. You would get the first advance warning sign one mile from your junction, then another at half a mile. At 300 yards from the deceleration lane there will be a three line marker. At this point you should signal your intention to leave but not slow down. You should only slow down on the deceleration lane itself. Once you return to the ordinary roads then you should be aware of your speed as you will need to reacclimatise yourself.
The hard shoulder on the motorway is there to help you in the event of a breakdown. If you can, it is best to stop near an emergency telephone and use this NOT your mobile to call the rescue services. This is because they can pinpoint exactly where you are. You are always no more than half a mile away from an emergency phone. BEFORE you use the phone you must ensure all passengers safety by making sure they are out of the vehicle, away from the hard shoulder and as far away from danger as possible. Once you have called for help, do not return to the car but join your passengers in the safety zone either behind the barrier or up the bank until the services reach you.
As an Instructor, I personally feel that a motorway lesson should be compulsory once you have passed your test. Whilst they are not, I am happy to offer these lessons as a service to anyone with a full licence who lives in the Berkshire/Surrey/Hampshire area. Please go to my website for further information: http://www.madeeasydriving.co.uk
How much do you know about motorways? Why not take the Motorway Quiz on the 2pass website.
Next week: I incorporate the road user that is every kind of people – Pedestrians.