Motorway driving

Help, advice, information, and confidence-boosting lessons

More than a third of drivers rarely, if ever, drive on a motorway. If that’s you, you may find motorways daunting or may be unfamiliar with some of the recent innovations.

Motorway queue

Safety advice:

  • Keep left unless overtaking – return to the left-hand lane after overtaking
  • Follow the two-second rule – give yourself enough time and space to react, and be aware of stopping distances
  • Adjust for the conditions – slow down and follow the four-second rule if the road is slippery or visibility is poor
  • Control your speed – watch out for variable speed posted on signs or gantries 
  • 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 – if you can’t see the driver he probably can’t see you
  • 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

You should also be familiar with what the Highway code (rules 253 to 273) has to say about driving on motorways.

We provide 24/7 roadside assistance.

Hard shoulder

Most motorways still have a continuous hard shoulder but on some, so-called ‘smart’ motorways, the hard shoulder has been turned into a running lane. Where this is the case, laybys known as Emergency Areas (EAs) are provided but they could be up to 2.5km apart.

Whether there’s a hard shoulder or not, it’s best in an emergency to try to drive to a safer place off the motorway if you can.

What to do if you break down.

More about smart motorways.

He breakdown 2019 640

Driver location signs

If you need to report an incident, debris or a breakdown, you’ll need to be able to describe accurately where you are. Look out for the blue 'driver location signs' on motorways and A–roads which let you describe, exactly where you are.

Distance and lane discipline

New penalties to tackle tailgating and middle lane hogs came in in 2013 under a new careless driving fixed penalty offence.

This is what the Highway Code has to say:

Rule 126
  • Drive at a speed that will allow you to stop well within the distance you can see to be clear.
  • Leave enough space between you and the vehicle in front so that you can pull up safely if it suddenly slows down or stops.
  • 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.

He keep left 2019 640

updated 2 July 2019

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