Explain to Motorways and Highways

Motorways and Highways

Few drivers seem to possess a good word for motorways these days, moaning about congestion on a number of our more notorious stretches, the tedium of driving on them, and therefore the frequency of roadworks. Yet motorways have allowed motorists to form an extended journey during a time which would have seemed inconceivable 30 years ago.

Much of the rather morbid mystique related to motorways can be blamed on the media, because a motorway accident is sufficiently catastrophic for television and newspapers to focus their attention thereon . As a result, it’s often forgotten that motorways have a lower accident record than other main roads. Since the probabilities of an accident on a motorway are much less than one on a comparable non-motorway highroad, it provides a safer route, also as a quicker one, to your destination.

Speeds on motorways are such, however, that great discipline is required to use them safely. you want to stick with the principles , and in doing so you might help to avoid some of the disasters which a couple of motorway hooligans seem determined to cause. you’ll encounter many bad driving on motorways: the recommendation which follows will assist you to form sure that your own driving is responsible and safe, albeit others fail to satisfy the quality . The Institute’s views on motorway driving, of course, follow the principles and guidelines described within the Highway Code , but to those basics are often added the wisdom gained from experience. Our advice is influenced by the comments we’ve obtained from the foremost professional of all professional drivers — the police patrol officers.

Difference between Motorways and Highways

When used as nouns, highway means a main, direct public road, especially a multi-lane, high speed thoroughfare connecting major population centers, whereas motorway means a broad highway designed for high speed traffic, having restrictions on the vehicle types permitted and merging lanes instead of cross traffic.


Before handling the techniques of advanced driving on motorways, some brief words are necessary about terminology. Some drivers describe the three lanes of a motorway as the ‘slow’, ‘middle’ and ‘fast’ lanes: this is misleading, since speed alone doesn’t determine the utilization of lanes, and to explain a lane as ‘fast’ smacks of irresponsibility.

More usual practice is to use the terms `inside’, ‘center’ and ‘outside’, but as more and more motorway sections with four lanes are being constructed this nomenclature is becoming outdated and will be confusing. the best way is that the notation employed by the police, and this is often what we shall follow in this article. Each lane is just given a number: therefore, lane 1 is that the ‘inside’, lane 2 the ‘center’ and lane 3 the ‘outside’, with lane 4 used where applicable.

Joining a motorway

The motorway slip road should be wont to accelerate to a speed which matches that of the traffic in lane 1. Signal a right turn in order that anyone in lane 1 will notice you, and will maybe give way to lane 2 to give you many room. Your line the stretch of the access road adjoining the most carriageway should be timed in order that you’ll slip neatly into place as soon as possible without losing speed, but keep a wary eye on the timid driver who could also be slowing down at the top of the access road to attend for a large gap in the traffic. In extreme cases, this kind of driver -who is the maximum amount of a menace to himself on other road-users — may even stop at the top of the slip road, as if to offer way.

You should remain in lane 1 for at least half a mile to adjust yourself to the speed and assess the approach pattern behind you. If you’re driving a car (rather than a lorry, or a car towing a caravan), your cruising speed will probably mean that you simply will spend a good proportion of your motorway journey in lane 2, so give way , after the standard mirror check and right blinker , when it becomes necessary. Return to lane 1 whenever it’s reasonably clear after overtaking man oeuvres are completed. Lane 3 isn’t the fast lane which many of us take it to be, so use it just for overtaking.

Motorway discipline

Your speed along a motorway should be one at which you, your passengers and the car feel comfortable, and one which is acceptable to weather and traffic density – but it must not be over 70mph. you should not drive so unreasonably slowly along a motorway that you inconvenience other drivers coming up behind, but neither do you have to treat 70mph as an obligatory speed: 70mph may be a limit, not a target. Traveling a few miles per hour under the limit will make little difference to your journey time.

If a motorist comes up behind traveling at quite 70mph, it’s not your job to uphold the law. Balking an overtaking driver, whether or not he’s traveling at a legal speed, are often dangerous also as discourteous, and therefore the police wouldn’t thank you for it.

Lane discipline

Once you have settled into a steady cruising speed, glance in the mirror frequently so that you’re constantly conscious of all the vehicles around you. Maintain strict lane discipline, in order that you’re always within the appropriate lane for your speed and the traffic conditions. Poor lane discipline is one among the foremost common samples of bad driving on motorways, and it can occasionally play its part in an accident when it forces drivers unnecessarily into lane 3. Far too often on motorways you see more traffic traveling in lane 3 than in lanes 1 and a couple of. If there’s a reasonable break within the traffic in lane 1, that’s where you ought to be.

If you come up behind a ‘lane hog’ who fails to maneuver over when there’s many space available, don’t resort to the aggressive tactics which many drivers employ. Remember that the principles of excellent driving require you to take care of a correct braking distance, so never be tempted to force a slower vehicle aside by looming large within the driver’s mirrors. twiddling my thumbs and await the chance to overtake safely. Never overtake on the inside: also as being a significant offence, this will be dangerous since no driver expects it to happen.

Keep your distance

Keeping a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front is even more important than good lane discipline. The importance of leaving room for seeing, reacting and braking has already been explained elsewhere in this book, but maintaining a safe distance is particularly relevant on a motorway. it’s only too easy to shut abreast of the vehicle ahead in order that the space between you is nothing like adequate in an emergency, so keep reminding yourself of now.

Drivers stopped by the police for driving extremely close, or ‘tailgating’, often use the excuse that they will see several vehicles ahead, but they’re deluding themselves. This foolish attitude ignores all types of possibilities: the driving force ahead might brake suddenly if he sees a bit of debris in the road, a vehicle from the opposing carriageway might crash through the central reservation, or the vehicle ahead might even suffer a tyre blow-out. one more reason why people fail to stay a safe gap is that overtaking vehicles often slot into the space you’ve got allowed; all you’ll do is move accordingly.

Slip road courtesy

As you approach and pass an entrance slip road, it is necessary to keep an eye on any traffic which may be about to join the motorway. If it is quite safe for you to move from lane 1 to lane 2 without obstructing a driver coming up behind, it is courteous to do so in order to make life easier for drivers joining the motorway; this forethought will be especially appreciated by lorry drivers, who are less able to adjust their speed to blend into the traffic flow. If a junction is very busy, this tactic is particularly appropriate.

Abnormal motorway conditions

A multiple pile-up on a fogbound motorway occurs almost every winter because so many people drive too fast for the conditions. But there’s rather more thereto than this. Many drivers make a dangerous assumption once they judge how far they ought to be behind the vehicle ahead : they think that the distance they leave gives them room to react when brake lights appear on any of the vehicles visible in front. What this attitude doesn’t leave is that the very real possibility that the cars ahead will come to a stop instantaneously and without warning if they pile into a mass of wrecked vehicles. In fog, you want to leave the stopping distance you would like under those conditions.

Motorway fog

Driving in fog on a motorway in other respects is governed by just an equivalent rules which apply to fog driving on the other roads: keep right down to a speed which gives safe braking distance within your range of vision; attempt to keep to lane 1 or 2 (and, in very thick fog, make sure you usually know which lane you’re in); use dipped beam headlights day or night and fog lamps if you’ve got them (remember that it’s even as important to be seen on see); open the windows, activate the demister and heated car window , and use the wipers to stay the windscreen free of moisture.

Above all, be philosophical about the delay to your journey. rather than risk being a victim during a nose-to-tail crash, it might be better to go away the motorway at subsequent exit and await the fog to clear, albeit this suggests spending an evening faraway from home.

You should not restrict the utilization of dipped headlights in daylight to foggy conditions. The law requires you to modify on dipped headlights whenever visibility is seriously diminished (defined within the Highway Code as but 100 meters), so this suggests in heavy rain also as fog. you want to use your discretion during this matter , remembering that the thing is for other road-users to ascertain you, not necessarily to assist you to ascertain . Next time you’re driving in poor conditions, notice how difficult it’s to identify a vehicle without headlights when most have them switched on; headlights attract attention within the rear-view mirror, so drivers ahead will have good warning once you come up behind. Use your car’s rear fog lights only visibility is reduced to around 100 meters, and don’t forget to modify them off again when conditions improve.

Motorway warning signals

Automatic motorway signals give you a recommended maximum speed during fog, on the approach to an event or maybe during heavy rain, also as giving warning of lane closures ahead or maybe the necessity to prevent or leave the motorway in the event of a significant accident. Many motorists don’t understand these signals, so it’s worth studying the range of warnings shown within the accompanying diagram. Some drivers, furthermore, don’t respect these signals, believing that they need been left on by mistake if no obvious need for them are often seen. it’s worth confirming, therefore, that the police are extremely diligent in employing these signals once they are necessary and in switching them off as soon as a hazard is cleared. Always obey them, because they function warning that you simply are approaching a hazard, perhaps a mile or two down the carriageway.

These warning signals are so often abused that you simply may even see in your rear-view mirror a car closing quite quickly. Since it’s very difficult to gauge the speed of a vehicle approaching from behind, it pays to exercise extreme caution and delay any planned lane-change of your own until it’s stream of the way. If the signals show that you simply will got to make a lane-change, perhaps because an accident has blocked one or two lanes, make your man oeuvre in blast and keep below the speed indicated. Keep a careful eye open for the fast-approaching driver in an empty lane who drives dangerously into the slowing traffic stream at the last minute.


Since speeds are normally higher on motorways, you need to be alert to the effect of crosswinds on your car’s stability. You may feel this where a motorway crosses open country or a bridge; or you may notice buffeting as a fast-moving coach or lorry passes you. As soon as you feel a crosswind tugging at your car, reduce your speed to a point where you can steer a straight course despite the gust. A light touch on the wheel is important, as too firm a hold will remove the sensitivity of control you need to make small steering corrections.

It is also possible to adapt quite unconsciously to a sustained crosswind by applying a degree or two of lock into the wind to keep your car traveling in a straight line. Be aware of any circumstances where a steady wind may temporarily be shielded from your car, perhaps when passing a heavy lorry or driving through a cutting. You need to be prepared for this by gently correcting the steering as the pressure drops and re-applying your corrective lock when it picks up again. Without this anticipation on your part, your car could swing a few yards across the road – and perhaps alarm other road-users before you manage to correct it.

Leaving the motorway

Taking an exit from a motorway involves a really simple procedure. Generally junction signs are posted 1-mile and 1/2-mile in advance , followed by three-, two- and one-bar signs which give a countdown starting at 300 yards. it’s obvious that you must synchronize your speed with the traffic in lane 1, ensuring that you simply have completed your man oeuvre into this lane well before the three-bar sign appears; in very heavy traffic, you ought to slot into lane 1 (after checking your mirror and signalling a left turn) even before this, soon after the 1-mile sign if necessary. If you’re already traveling in lane 1, signal a left turn in blast , and positively before you pass the three-bar sign.

Entering the access road may be a potentially hazardous moment. After driving for maybe a few of hours at on the brink of the legal limit, your judgement of speed will became distorted. Since 50mph will seem more like 30mph, it’s very easy to approach the roundabout too quickly and find yourself having to brake heavily. Some slip roads curve so sharply that the risks of misjudging your braking become even greater. believe your car’s speedometer also as your judgement when making this big speed adjustment.

While on the topic of judging speed, it’s worth remarking that it’s possible to become ‘speed happy’ while you’re still on the motorway. we’ve already described the tendency for your judgement of braking distance to lapse, but you ought to also remember that a violent swerve in an emergency could cause you to lose control of your car, just because you attempt a man oeuvre which you’d never normally contemplate at such high speed.

Keeping your car in trim

Once motorways have become a normal part of your driving, guarding against all these hazards should become built in to your approach as you follow the techniques of advanced driving. All that remains is to make sure that your car is able to cope as well as you are. Although you probably keep your car in good trim, a few points are worth noting.

To give their best at prolonged high speed, tires sometimes need to be pumped up slightly harder than normal. Our speed limits and the frequency with which drivers hop on and off motorways mean that this precaution is more appropriate to driving on the continent, but the higher speeds of motorways do mean that checking the pressure and condition of your tires becomes even more important. Analyses of motorway accidents have shown that one in six is caused by a tire failure, so pay good attention to your tires in order to minimize this chance. A damaged tire is most likely to puncture or explode at high speed, when the operating temperature rises. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a puncture on a motorway, brake gently and steer delicately to reduce the chance of the tire peeling off the rim and rendering your car totally uncontrollable.

Many luxury cars are equipped with cruise control devices, which enable a constant speed to be maintained until override by the first touch on the brake or accelerator pedals. In safety terms, there is no reason why a cruise control should not be used, as long as it does not lead you to relax your vigilance; remember that it is all too easy for motorway driving to become almost mesmeric. You should never move your feet away from the pedals when using cruise control, since this delays your reaction to an emergency and may even cause you to hit the wrong pedal in haste.

Motorway breakdowns are often caused by factors which a diligent driver can avoid. Do not push a car beyond its limitations in age and design, and make sure that you have plenty of petrol and oil. Listen for any unfamiliar sounds or vibrations which may signal a mechanical problem. Remember that high speed puts more stress on your car, so the chances of mechanical failure increase on a motorway.


  • When joining a motorway, accelerate up the slip road to a speed which matches that of the traffic in lane 1 and move into this lane when it is safe to do so.
  • Treat the 70mph speed limit as a limit, not as a target which you must reach.
  • Remember the two essential disciplines of motorway driving: maintain a safe braking distance at all times and watch your lane discipline.
  • Treat fog with great respect: drive at a low speed which allows you to stop within the range of your vision, and maintain a braking distance sufficient to give you room if the vehicle ahead stops instantaneously in a crash.
  • Motorway warning signals are always illuminated for a reason: obey them at all times.
  • When planning to leave a motorway, ensure that you have slotted into lane 1 well before the three-bar sign.


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