For drivers who have recently obtained their license, the idea of driving on a motorway can bring about anxiety and trepidation. Nevertheless, motorways are the safest roads in the United Kingdom and provide an excellent means of swiftly covering long distances. The subsequent guide will equip you for the day you venture onto the motorway for the first time.
Joining the Motorway:
To enter a motorway, make use of a slip road. The process for doing so is identical to joining a dual carriageway. The key points to bear in mind are:
- Adapt your speed to match that of the traffic already on the motorway.
- Signal to indicate your intention of joining the motorway.
- Give priority to the traffic that is already on the motorway.
- Enter into a suitable gap in the left-hand lane.
- Utilize the MSM/PSL routine.
- Refrain from forcefully merging into the flow of traffic.
- Avoid driving along the hard shoulder.
It may be necessary to glance over your right shoulder to determine the position of other vehicles. Try to avoid coming to a stop at the end of the slip road, unless there is a queue of slow-moving traffic to join.
Once you are on the motorway, remain in the left-hand lane until you have had the opportunity to assess and adjust to the speed of the traffic already on the motorway.
Certain slip roads continue as a dedicated lane, meaning you will not have to join the motorway in the manner previously mentioned. Signs and road markings will indicate if this is the case.
Driving on the Motorway:
Motorways can consist of two, three, or even four lanes.
A two-lane motorway - Stick to the left-hand lane for regular driving. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking. After completing the overtaking maneuver, move back into the left-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Large goods vehicles are authorized to utilize either lane.
A three-lane motorway - Stay within the left-hand lane unless you need to overtake slower-moving traffic. To do so, use the middle lane. If you need to overtake multiple vehicles, remain in the middle lane. There is no need to switch between the left-hand lane and the middle lane for each individual vehicle you overtake.
Only make use of the outer lane to overtake slower-moving vehicles when the left-hand and middle lanes are occupied by slower traffic.
When driving in the middle or outer lanes, be prepared to switch to the left or middle lanes in order to allow faster-moving vehicles to pass.
Large and heavy vehicles, such as buses, coaches, lorries, and cars towing caravans or trailers, are prohibited from using the outer lane. Therefore, if such a vehicle approaches you from behind while you are in the middle lane, ensure that you move into the left-hand lane when it is safe to do so, in order to prevent obstructing the vehicle's progress.
Changing Lanes and Overtaking on a Motorway:
- Execute the MSM/PSL routine well in advance of the lane change.
- Look and, if necessary, signal in a timely manner.
- Be mindful that vehicles may approach you from behind at a rapid pace.
- A quick glance to the side may be required to check the blind spot.
- Move smoothly into the lane when it is safe to do so.
When Other Vehicles Join:
While driving on the motorway, you will frequently encounter entrances where other vehicles can merge. In such situations:
- If multiple vehicles are joining the motorway, be prepared to adjust your speed.
- If it is safe to do so, shift out of the left-hand lane to facilitate the merging of joining traffic.
These are locations where motorways merge or separate. They may require you to change lanes, sometimes on multiple occasions. Overhead direction signs will provide you with all the necessary information to ensure you take the correct route.
Exiting a Motorway:
To exit a motorway, utilize a junction. These junctions are clearly indicated by signs located at one mile, half a mile, and at a countdown of 300, 200, and 100 yards before the slip road for the exit begins.
To ensure optimal driving on a dual carriage, it is advisable to position yourself in the left-hand lane near the half-mile indicator. As you approach the 300-yard countdown marker, it is recommended to activate your left signal.
When exiting the motorway, please follow these guidelines:
- Utilize the MSM/PSL routine in a timely manner.
- Plan ahead and transition into the appropriate lane early, unless you are already in the left-hand lane.
In the event that you miss your intended junction, proceed to the next junction, exit the motorway, and re-enter in the opposite direction. From there, continue until you reach your desired junction. Under no circumstances should you attempt to reverse onto the slip road.
Halting on a motorway is only permissible if:
- Red lights or other signs and signals indicate that you should do so.
- Law enforcement, Highway Agency Traffic Officers, or Vehicle and Operator Service Agency Officers specifically request you to stop.
- An emergency situation arises.
- A stoppage would prevent an accident.
Remember to only stop on the hard shoulder in the case of an emergency.
If you need to slow down or stop due to traffic congestion, activate your hazard warning lights to alert drivers behind you of the upcoming obstruction. Once you are confident that you have been noticed, deactivate the hazard lights.
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Safe driving on a motorway requires adherence to the maximum speed limit of 70mph. However, it is widely acknowledged that this speed limit is frequently exceeded. Considering the high speeds attained on a motorway, it is crucial to anticipate events occurring well in advance. These speeds leave less time for reaction during emergencies.
Maintaining a suitable distance between your vehicle and the one ahead is vital, maintaining at least a two-second gap on dry days. If you notice brake lights ahead, ease off the accelerator pedal. Abrupt braking on a motorway can be perilous, potentially causing a chain reaction of vehicles braking suddenly. This can lead to traffic congestion and even collisions.
Regularly check your mirrors to maintain awareness of approaching vehicles.
Avoid becoming trapped between a slow-moving vehicle in front of you and a closely tailgating vehicle behind you. In such situations, gradually reduce your speed to increase the gap between your vehicle and the one ahead. When it is safe to do so, overtake the slow-moving vehicle.
Motorway signals demand your attention. These signals convey information regarding hazards or danger ahead. If a signal is active on the central reservation, it pertains to all lanes. On the other hand, if a signal is active above a specific lane, it exclusively applies to that lane.
Flashing amber lights indicate an impending hazard. These signs may also display temporary speed limits and other cautionary messages. When encountering these warning signals, you must adjust your speed accordingly and continue to comply with the instructions until you have passed a non-flashing signal or one that signifies all-clear.
Red flashing lights serve as a firm directive. If red lights flash over your lane on overhead signals, accompanied by a red 'X,' you must not proceed beyond that signal in your lane. Similarly, if red lights flash on a signal located on the central reservation or at the side of the road, you must not proceed beyond that signal in any lane.
Avoid driving while fatigued. Statistics indicate that fatigue is responsible for 15-20% of motorway incidents. It is therefore advisable to take regular breaks every two to three hours, ensuring you find a safe resting area if you begin to feel tired.
Reflective studs aid in determining the layout of the road. Here is their significance:
- Red: Positioned between the hard shoulder and carriageway.
- White: Placed between lanes.
- Amber: Situated between the edge of the carriageway and the central reservation.
- Green: Found at the junction between the carriageway and slip road exits and entrances.
- Fluorescent green/yellow: Employed in contraflow systems and road works.
Ordinarily, the hard shoulder should only be utilized during emergencies or in the event of a breakdown. However, certain sections of the motorway experience significant traffic congestion, which has led to the utilization of the hard shoulder as an additional lane. Signs indicating a speed limit above the hard shoulder will indicate whether it can be used as a regular lane.
Limited visibility approaching
Termination of control
Temporary cap on top speed
Upcoming lane closure
Make a lane switch
Refrain from advancing in this lane
Exit the highway at the subsequent off-ramp
Temporary restriction on maximum speed with accompanying message
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