Motorway driving

North West tops London as nation's No 1 motorway driving black spot

26 November 2009

Heavy traffic, delays and lack of skills mean up to one in five loathe our M-way network

Heavy traffic, delays and lack of skills mean up to one in five loathe our M-way network

Forget life in the fast lane: for many Britons our crowded motorways are a road to hell. Drivers in the North West of England have topped London when it comes to loathing motorway driving, according to a national 'league table'1 produced by AA Driving School.

More than a fifth (22%) of drivers in the North West – up to 900,000 in total – say they lack vital skills needed for driving on motorways. This compares with 15.5% – up to 630,000 drivers – in second-place London, and a UK-wide average of 14%.

The findings form part of research by AA Driving School which reveals that fear of motorways and a lack of driving skills are causing millions of Britons to avoid the roads altogether. Nationally, one in seven motorists – nearly 5 million in total – say they lack skills needed for motorway driving.

While London's M25 is the nation's busiest motorway, the North West fear factor appears to reflect traffic volumes in a region criss-crossed by crowded motorways – including the M60, M6 and M62, which rank among the UK's five busiest.

Tailored motorway driving course

Learner drivers in the UK are not allowed to drive on motorways, are not tested on practical motorway skills, and do not have to take motorway lessons once licensed. To help qualified drivers of all ages to build the confidence and skills for life in the fast lane, AA Driving School has launched new tailored motorway driving courses.


AA Driving School Director Simon Douglas says: "The evidence suggests motorways are our most feared and avoided roads, yet statistically they are safer than the alternatives. By avoiding them you are at best missing out on the speed and convenience of motorway travel; at worst putting yourself at greater risk on A-roads2.

"Tailored motorway tuition with a fully-qualified instructor can help you build the skills and confidence to drive safely and get the most out of our motorway network."

Case histories

Examples include a 62-year-old London widow who asked AA Driving School to help her tackle motorways. She had never driven on one in 22 years since passing her test as her late husband had always done the driving, and she was fast losing touch with friends who were a motorway-journey away. She started her lessons nervously, but speed was not her only worry – she insisted on doing her lessons in her own car lest her peers should see her in a driving school car. She has now successfully completed her training, regained her independence, and is literally on the road to restoring old friendships.

One taxi driver in Bolton refused all jobs involving motorway driving after witnessing a motorway accident 20 years ago. He booked a motorway lesson and, after starting out at 45mph with a queue of traffic behind, gradually gained the confidence to travel at a suitable speed. Now he gladly accepts motorway jobs, his takings have increased, and he is so delighted he has referred three other drivers to his instructor for lessons.

Motorway fact file:

  • Young drivers and women are by far the least confident on motorways, according to AA/Populus research. Only 44 per cent of those aged 18-24 and 44 per cent of women said they were confident driving on motorways. The figures were 65 per cent and 70 per cent respectively for drivers aged 55-64 and male drivers.3
  • Research suggests that in their first year of driving nearly 20 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women avoid motorways altogether. By the third year after passing the test, 11 per cent of men and 28 per cent of women did no motorway driving.4
  • Though motorways are statistically Britain’s safest roads, new drivers are over-represented among accidents, with drivers aged 17-24 involved in more than a quarter of motorway accidents involving death or injury.4
  • Driving too slowly, not merging safely when joining the motorway, and not observing safe following distances are the most commonly observed problems, according to AA Driving School instructors.

Regional breakdown

1A regional breakdown of drivers who say their M-way driving skills are below par, i.e. a driving instructor would correct them if they were in a lesson, is as follows:

NW of England - 22%
London - 15.5%
Scotland - 15%
Yorkshire & Humber - 14.5%
West Midlands - 14%
SE of England - 14%
East Anglia - 14%
Wales - 11%
SW of England - 11%
East Midlands - 10.5%
NE of England - 10%
Northern Ireland - 7.5%

(Research undertaken for AA Driving School with 72 Point on 7-8 May 2009. 2,000 respondents were questioned)

2The 2009 EuroRAP survey found that 60 per cent of A-roads failed to rate as safe, and rated single-carriageway A-roads as Britain's most dangerous roads.

3 AA/Populus panel survey of 13,905 drivers, 2 - 8 June 2009.

4 Young drivers - where and when they are unsafe: analysis of road accidents in Great Britain 2000-2006 (IAM Motoring Trust, August 2008).

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25 November 2009