AA advice and information

You may approach motorway driving with some apprehension or know your local motorways very well

% of AA Members said they used motorways every day of the week or every week day

To many people there is nothing unusual about motorways – they use them every day. Others use motorways only very rarely or not at all.

In an AA-Populus poll* (March 2013) 10% of AA Members said they used motorways every day of the week or every week day. At the other end of the spectrum, 37% said that they only use motorways for a few trips every year and 2% said that they never use motorways.

You may approach motorway driving with some apprehension or know your local motorways very well but be unfamilair with some of the innovations introduced on motorways elsewhere.

Driver location sign

Driver location sign

Do you know where you are?

If you need to report an incident, debris or a breakdown, it's important that you can describe accurately where you are. Driver location signs across the motorways and A–roads network let you know, and describe, exactly where you are when an incident happens.

Hard shoulder

Motorway hard shoulders are for emergency use only. You should only stop if it is a real emergency and you have no other choice. It's best to try to drive to a safer place off the motorway if you can rather than stopping on the hard shoulder.

What to do if you break down »

Driving on a Motorway

Safety advice from AA Driving School

  • Keep left unless overtaking – return to the left-hand lane after overtaking, not forgetting to indicate, and check your blind spot
  • Follow the two-second rule – give yourself enough time and space to react
  • Adjust for the conditions – slow down and follow the four-second rule if the road is slippery or visibility is poor.
  • Control your speed
  • Indicate in good time before changing lanes
  • Check your mirrors often – your situation will change quickly on the motorway
  • Take extra care around trucks and other large vehicles – they have bigger blind spots and slower reaction times
  • Anticipate what's coming next by sweeping the road ahead visually – look 2 seconds ahead, 4 seconds ahead, and 12 seconds ahead, and check your mirrors.
  • Only use the hard shoulder for emergencies
  • Take regular breaks  – about every two hours, to stop yourself becoming tired behind the wheel

The Highway code

The Highway code contains several rules (253 to 273) that apply specifically to driving on motorways, though many other rules apply to motorway driving too.

At the beginning of June 2013 the Government announced new penalties to tackle tailgating and middle lane hogs under a new careless driving fixed penalty offence.  This is expected to come into force in mid-August 2013.

This is what the Highway Code says specifically about following distance and lane discipline on motorways:

Rule 126

  • Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear.
  • You should leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops.
  • You should allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front on roads carrying faster-moving traffic. The gap should be at least doubled on wet roads and increased still further on icy roads.

Rule 264

  • 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.

Traffic management

The AA supported the Active Traffic Management scheme on the M42 as it gained drivers' support, eased congestion, improved journey reliability and made driving more comfortable.

Variable speed limits and hard shoulder running »


The Highways Agency agrees with local authorities the most suitable diversion routes for incidents on major roads in advance and these are being signed using black symbols on a yellow background.

Emergency diversion routes »

Emergency diversion signs

Emergency diversion signs

Lone women

The risks of driving alone can be exaggerated – be sensible about your safety but don't be afraid to drive on your own.

Advice for Women driving alone »


Whatever the weather throws at you – fog, severe winds, floods, summer heat or winter snow – and whatever the time of year, we've got advice to help keep your driving safe and trouble free.

Seasonal and bad weather driving advice »


AA patrol van on the Preston bypass 1958

Preston bypass 1958


In 1946 the first map was published showing a projected English motorway system in a form that can be compared to today's reality. The M1, M4, M5, M6, M62 and M18 are all there, along with a circle that would eventually represent the M25.

A brief history of motorways »


In February 2010, the AA Charitable Trust for Road Safety and the Environment launched 'Drive confident', aimed at qualified drivers in need of refresher driver training to increase confidence on the road.

Drive confident »

If you've passed your test but are unsure about driving on motorways, you can refresh your skills and increase your confidence with motorway lessons from the AA Driving School.

(2 August 2013)

* Source: Populus interviewed 21,874 adults aged 18+ on The AA-Populus online panel between 15-26 March 2013.


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