With cars zipping past at 70 miles per hour, three lanes to choose from, and difficult merging opportunities every few miles, it’s no wonder why so many new drivers have a fear of motorway driving.
You can, however, increase your competency on the road, with additional learning materials and tests being invaluable tools. But, by far, the best way of getting used to the motorway is to experience it for yourself.
For some drivers, motorway driving is a little out of reach. So, to replicate that educational feeling, here’s a few tips for motorway driving to get you prepared.
Motorway driving: general information
The first step to driving on a motorway is to have a grasp on just how vast it is.
There are 50 motorways located in the UK, with around 320 different entry points found across them all. The first motorway in the UK was the Preston Bypass, opening in 1958 and costing nearly £3 million.
Combined, the UK motorway network spans over 1,947 miles, with the M1 between London and Leeds coming out as the longest stretch at 190 miles.
Almost all types of vehicles can be driven on a motorway, with cars and lorries taking up most of the presence.
Motorway driving is not a required element of the driving test, with learners often having to duke it out on dual carriageways thanks to their high availability across the country. As such, many drivers will often never touch ground at a motorway until their very first venture.
Motorway lanes, explained
One aspect of motorways that sets them apart from other types of roads is the number of lanes they have. All the lanes follow the same rules when it comes to speed limits, with each one having its own uses. Here’s what they all mean:
The left lane
The left-hand lane in the motorway is one that learners are going to want to familiarise themselves with. This lane is for ‘routine driving’ vehicles that are usually travelling below or at the speed limit like long-haul commuters in cars, vans, or trucks.
Essentially, if you’re on the motorway travelling below or at the speed limit, the left lane is where you need to be.
The middle lane
The middle lane is a high point of contention on motorways with many drivers being uncertain as to what exactly it is used for.
Basically, the middle lane is only used for overtaking purposes. If you find yourself gaining on a vehicle in the left lane, then you should move over to the middle to perform an appropriate overtake.
This lane frequently gets held up by cars moving quicker than they should, so it’s a wise bet to stay off the middle lane unless you are travelling faster than the lane you are in.
The right lane
Much like the middle lane, the right lane is another part of the motorway that should only be used in one specific purpose: overtaking. However, in some cases, the right lane will become blocked by cars that are travelling beyond the speed limit.
Despite this, the correct use of the right lane is to merge into it, overtake safely, and then return to the left lane.
Motorway tips for first timers
So, the time has come to tackle the beast that is the motorway. If you’re feeling apprehensive or unsure, here’s our guide on how to drive on a motorway for the first time:
Set a reasonable distance
Motorways are long, and this makes it easy to get lost on a long journey. That’s why you should always set a safe, reasonable distance for your first motorway venture.
This is particularly helpful for those living in remote parts of the UK – in some places, the closest motorway can be multiple miles away which makes practice quite difficult.
In the unfortunate event that you do find yourself on a motorway for a long time, it’s important to make sure that your car is up for the job.
The best way of doing this is to ensure your car follows a regular service schedule at frequent intervals, which helps fix common car problems.
Stick to the left lane
With so many lanes, some may find it tempting to explore their car’s handling by moving in and around them all. However, as a rule of thumb, beginners should stick to the left lane as much as possible. Although all the lanes follow the same speed limit, cars travelling in the left-hand lane do tend to be slower than others. This reduced speed makes it easier to cast judgements on emerging situations – a great benefit for beginners.
Take frequent breaks
This tip goes hand in hand with our tip about distances. But yes, it can be tempting to drive for hours on long motorways because they’re so long.
Therefore, we recommend taking breaks in regular intervals to avoid fatigue and stress.
Practice, practice, practice
By far the best tip that we can give to new motorway drivers is to keep at it. There will be days where you make mistakes but don’t panic, this is all part of the process. After you’ve accrued a few miles of motorway driving, you’ll know them like the back of your hand.
Consider further learning
If you still find yourself struggling to get to grips with motorways, fear not. There are plenty of helpful courses and learning opportunities to take advantage of. The Pass Plus scheme, for example, is great for motorway driving, with it being a central theme to the course.
One of the most difficult parts of motorway starts when you first join a new stretch of tarmac. Merging requires both patience and skill, and it’s not something you’ll master straight away. So, when merging, be sure to take your time and only jump into the queue once it is safe to do so.
Monitor your speed to somewhere between 50 and 60 mph before heading into the left lane. This allows you enough time to decide, while also travelling at an appropriate speed.
Conquer the motorway safely
While the motorway may sound like a scary venture, it gets much easier once you have all the information you need. If you do plan on taking on your local motorway, make sure you do so in a safe, reliable car.
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