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Mastering Motorway Driving in the UK: A Comprehensive Introduction

Motorway driving in the UK, while efficient for covering long distances, can be daunting for many. This guide aims to equip drivers with the skills and knowledge necessary to navigate motorways confidently and safely. Although you will not have to travel on a motorway during your driving test, you may get the opportunity to spend some time with an ADI on your BookInstructor driving lessons when you are at test standard and a fully independent driver. You should cover dual carriageways first as there are many similarities. 

Joining and Leaving Motorways

Joining a motorway requires using the acceleration lane to match the speed of traffic before merging. When leaving, use the deceleration lane to gradually reduce speed, avoiding abrupt braking. You should use the MSPSL routine throughout, which you have developed to an extremely high standard during your driving lessons. You may need to check your blindspot area as you prepare to join the motorway, because it can be particularly tricky to assess your surroundings (especially lane 2 and 3) with only mirror checks from the acceleration lane.

Effective Use of Mirrors

Regularly check your mirrors to maintain awareness of your surroundings. This is crucial for lane changes, overtaking, and responding to traffic flow. Mirror, signal, Manoeuvre! 

Planning Ahead

On motorways, it’s essential to look and plan further ahead than on single carriageways. This forward planning helps in anticipating traffic conditions and potential hazards, allowing for smoother and safer driving. Remember the 2 second gap between yourself and the vehicle is the minimum in dry, clear conditions, this doubles in wet weather. Hold back!

Responding to Other Road Users

Be courteous and responsive to other drivers. This includes adjusting your speed or lane position to allow others to merge or overtake safely.

Correct Lane Usage

Stay in the left lane unless overtaking. Middle and right lanes are for overtaking slower-moving traffic. Returning to the left lane after overtaking is not just courteous; it’s a rule. Follow instructions to not change lane in congested smart motorways to aid traffic flow.

Maintaining Safe Separation Distances

Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. The two-second rule is a good measure in dry conditions, and this should be doubled in wet or poor visibility conditions.

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You may use your hazard warning lights to warn following traffic of sudden slowing down ahead of you, be prepared to brake suddenly but as smooth as possible if you experience this situation with the car ahead of you.

Understanding Signals, Signs, and Markings

Pay attention to road signs, signals, and markings. They provide crucial information about upcoming junctions, lane closures, speed limits, and more.

Avoiding Fatigue

Long drives can lead to fatigue. Use service areas to rest and refresh. Taking regular breaks during long journeys is essential for maintaining alertness.

Overtaking on Motorways

Overtake on the right. Ensure it’s safe by checking your mirrors and blind spots. After overtaking, return to the left lane when it’s safe to do so.

Handling Side Winds and Turbulence

Be prepared for side winds or turbulence caused by large vehicles. Hold the steering wheel firmly and adjust your speed accordingly.

Using Smart Motorways

Smart motorways use variable speed limits and lane rules to manage traffic flow. Follow the displayed speed limits and lane instructions, and be aware that some lanes might be closed or used by emergency vehicles.

Dealing with Contraflows and Roadworks

In contraflow systems and roadworks, lanes might narrow and speed limits reduce. Stay alert, adhere to the speed limits, and follow the temporary signage.

Handling Accidents and Breakdowns

In case of a breakdown, try to reach the hard shoulder or an emergency refuge area. If in an accident, move to a safe place, call emergency services if needed, and wait for assistance. The network of emergency phones connects you to the highways agency and they can assist you with advice and recovery if you do not have a recovery membership.

Using the Hard Shoulder

The hard shoulder is for emergencies and breakdowns, not for driving. However, on some smart motorways, it may be used as an extra lane – follow the displayed instructions. If you need to walk to an emergency phone, follow posted instruction arrows in the direction to your nearest phone.

In conclusion, driving on motorways in the UK requires a combination of good judgement, knowledge of motorway rules, and attentiveness to road conditions and traffic. By following these guidelines, drivers can ensure a safer, more efficient, and stress-free journey on the UK’s motorways.

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