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Dealing with Motorways

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Dealing with Motorways

Motorway driving may seem a little daunting for newly qualified drivers, however contrary to people’s beliefs, they’re one of the safest roads to drive on. From the 4th July 2018, the UK Government has allowed learner drivers to practice on motorways, provided they are accompanied by a fully qualified driving instructor. The aim of this is to make dealing with motorways safer and easier. DTC UK can help build up confident with motorway lessons.

If you have never been on a motorway, you should consider a pass plus training to help you practice with a fully ADI driving instructor. Furthermore, familiarising yourself with the Highway Code, especially the motorway driving section could be of great benefit. This is so you feel comfortable with the layout, rules and varying speed limits.

Dealing with Motorways – Joining

Motorways are joined from a slip road. When joining a motorway, you should these slip roads to ensure that you build up speed. This is so that you’re not causing other vehicles already on the motorway to slow down or suddenly having to change lane. Sudden lane changing can often lead to accidents. You should achieve a speed similar to the cars already on the motorway.  Whilst joining you should do a full observation, making sure you include the blind spot, before moving into the correct lane. 

Dealing with Motorways – Normal Positioning

The normal position for driving in the UK is on the left and motorways are no exception. You must drive in the left-hand lane unless you are overtaking.  However, you should only ever overtake on a motorway if it’s safe to do so. This can be ensured by checking your centre and side mirrors and also checking the blind spot. Signalling well before you change lane is good practice, as it gives the other nearby drivers notice of your intentions.

Once you’ve overtaken, you should always try to move back into the left-hand lane, at the first safe opportunity. Furthermore, if you’re moving from the right-hand lane back into the middle you should take extra care. This is because there may be cars in the left lane trying to get into the same lane as you!

Dealing with Motorways – Speed Limits

Speed limits on motorways are relatively high, often set a 70mph. However, it can change multiple times on one stretch of a road, particularly in places of roadworks or an incident. Therefore, it is vital that you are observant of new signs which indicate a change in speed limit.

Digital signs are also prevalent on motorways so these should also be looked out for. Some motorways are implementing a new technology known as smart motorways, such as the M25. These have variable speed limits and are used to help ease traffic congestion at busy times. As well as speed management, smart motorways also allow you to drive on the hard shoulder. This will be clearly indicated on the overhead signs. If you see a red cross above the hard shoulder, it means that lane should only be used in emergencies. These smart motorways also have a number of speed cameras in the overhead gantries. If you’re caught speeding on the motorway, you could be fined at least 150% of your weekly salary.

There are two types of speed signs on a UK motorway. If the sign is in a red ring, it is a mandatory speed limit. However, if it surrounded by flashing amber lights, it’s an advisory speed limit based on weather and traffic conditions.

Dealing with Motorways – Keeping Your Distance

Distance, so shall we say, lack of keeping a distance away from the driver in front, it the cause of many motorway accidents.  You should keep your stopping distances in mind whilst driving on the motorway, particularly because of the high speeds you’re travelling at.  At 70mph, the total stopping distance is 96 meters. However, this is at ideal conditions. Stopping distances are doubled during wet weather.  In snow and ice, its increase up to 10 times. You can use the 2 rule to help you. When you pass a certain object, such as a bridge, start counting, one second two seconds. If you get to that particular bridge before you finish counting, then you’re too close.

Dealing with Motorways – Leaving a Motorway

When leaving, observe the signs above the lanes and road markings on the road, and move into the correct lane within plenty of time. There are usually countdown marking when approaching an exit: three lines being 300 yards; two lines being 200 yards, and one line is a 100 yards away.  You should aim to signal between the 300 yards and the 100-yard sign. Once you have left the motorway, it is important that you keep a close check on your speedometer. It is suggested that, after leaving a motorway, 50mph can feel like you’re driving at 30mph. It takes a good few minutes to adjust to the lower speed limits.

Dealing with Motorways – Night Driving

Except for entrance and exits, many UK motorways are unlit. Driving on unlit roads will involve extra concentration. There are reflective studs on the lane markings to guide you.  If you are dazzled by a driver from behind, you should adjust your mirror using the anti-dazzle facility.

White studs mark the lanes or the middle of the road.
Red studs mark the left edge of the road.
Amber studs mark the central reservation of a dual carriageway or motorway.
Green studs mark the edge of the main carriageway at lay-bys and slip roads.
Green/yellow studs indicate temporary adjustments to lane layouts, e.g. where roadworks are taking place.

Dealing with Motorways – DTC Driving School

As you can see that there many factors to take into account when driving on the UK motorways. If you have never driven on such roads, you are strongly advised to seek at least a 2-hour lesson from an approved driving instructor. DTC Driving school has only fully approved driving instructors. Book a motorway lesson now.


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