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Safe Motorway Driving

Heavy motorway traffic

Although we’re often informed that serious accidents happen more frequently on minor roads, motorway driving is not without risk, as the statistics below demonstrate:

  • Fatal or serious accidents on all UK road types rose by 4% for the rolling year ending June 2014 compared with the previous 12 months.*
  • But the statistics for roads with a speed limit over 40mph is more alarming, with a rise of 8% in people killed or seriously injured compared to the same period in 2013.*

*Provisional figures released by the government.

Although these figures still represent an 18% fall compared with the 2005-2009 baseline on which road safety outcomes are measured, the need to maintain and improve standards of driving on the motorway is very clear.

Tips for safe motorway driving

Is your car up to it?

Some motorway accidents are caused by lack of vehicle maintenance. For example, a worn tyre or low tyre pressure can cause the car to skid in poor weather; brake failure will, as a minimum, increase your stopping distance and could easily cause a collision with other vehicles.

So make sure your car is up-to-date on its MOT and servicing, and carry out routine regular checks of the basics yourself, especially before long journeys and travelling on motorways. Check your oil, tyre pressure and screen-wash fluid as a minimum.

Are you prepared?

Map and compassIf you find motorway driving a daunting prospect, setting off ill-prepared is only going to make you more flustered.

Check your route before you go and make a list of the motorways you need to follow and the junctions you will enter and exit the motorways. We are all relying more and more on sat nav systems these days, but they’re not always dependable; if your sat nav fails for whatever reason, at least you’ll have a back-up to rely on.

Being in control of a potentially confusing situation will help you avoid distractions which might cause an accident.

Joining the motorway

Some drivers find joining the motorway particularly nerve-wracking. The best technique to find a space is to judge the speed of the traffic in the nearside lane while you’re on the slip road and try to match your own speed to that. Use your indicators and do a final check over your shoulder just before you leave the slip road to join the motorway.

Most motorway drivers are considerate to cars joining from the slip road and will either adjust their speed to create a space for you or move to the next lane if they can.

Driving on the motorway

  • Motorway signThe two second rule (keeping two seconds’ worth of driving space between you and the car in front) gives you the time to react and the space to stop in a controlled way if something happens on the motorway ahead of you.
  • Adjust your speed for the weather conditions and give yourself double the stopping distance to react on very wet or icy roads.
  • Maintain a controlled speed – sudden acceleration or braking can take other drivers unawares, leading to an accident.
  • Use good lane control. Unless you’re overtaking, keep to the nearside (left-hand) lane of the motorway. Always use your indicators when you change lanes, both for overtaking and when you move back to the left-hand lane. Check over your shoulder for your blind spot just before you change lanes.
  • Check your mirrors frequently – situations change fast on a motorway and it’s easy to miss something going on behind you. Be especially vigilant when you’re preparing to change lanes.
  • Be considerate of big lorries: they have bigger blind spots and take longer to change lanes or slow down, so don’t give them cause to have to do either in a hurry.

Preparation, anticipation and common sense

Whether you’re a new driver or just nervous of motorway driving, brushing up your skills is always a good idea. The government’s Pass Plus driving course is ideal for new drivers, while the Institute for Advanced Motorists offers a variety of modular programmes to help build the confidence of any level of driver. Both include motorway driving as an element of their training.

If you are already a qualified driver, there is nothing to stop you driving safely on the motorway. Always be prepared before you set off; try to anticipate situations by being aware of everything happening around you; be considerate to other drivers on the motorway and use your common sense.

Read other useful motoring information here

Looking for car insurance? Call Girl Motor on *0344 493 7743 for a free and quick quote.

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