Motorway driving is often part and parcel of driving in the UK. However, research has shown the amount of careless, poor or even reckless driving on British motorways is too high, with 66,900 reported accidents occurring on major roads in the UK from October 2015 to September 2016.
Driving on motorways can be stressful at the best of times, let alone during the festive season. With this in mind, Simon Acker, CEO of Warranty Direct has put together some tips to help drivers feel more confident on the motorways this Christmas and New Year.
Adjusting to wintry conditions
Whilst heavy rain and fog are known to create more difficult conditions on roads, some motorists don’t always adapt their driving style accordingly. In heavy rain, you must slow down and leave more room between your car and the one in front as stopping distance is increased and control is reduced. At 70mph in good conditions, you should leave 315 feet (or 24 car lengths) between your car and the vehicle in front. In wet conditions this will be at least double the distance as your tyres have less grip, and in icy conditions the overall stopping distance should be at least ten times this.
When it comes to reduced visibility, your fog lights should only be turned on when visibility is below 100 metres. For the benefit of other drivers, it’s better not to use rear fog lights, as they can mask your brake lights and dazzle other drivers.
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Discipline and etiquette
You often hear complaints of ‘middle-lane hoggers’, which is typical of people not following the Highway Code. If the road ahead is clear, you should always drive in the left-hand lane, and when overtaking you should return back to the left as soon as you’re safely past. Contrary to popular belief, the left-hand lane is not simply for HGVs and coaches – everyone should use it.
Common bad practices such as tailgating, undertaking and cutting up other drivers are ill-advised. Tailgating is especially dangerous on the motorway as crashes on 70mph roads are more than twice as likely to result in death as crashes on roads with lower speed limits. These accidents could be avoided if enough room was left between vehicles. The ideal way to judge this is to allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front, at 70mph this is around 315 feet – see Adjusting to wintry conditions, above, for increasing distances in the weather.
The hard shoulder can be a dangerous place – don’t use it unless directed to do so by the police or by signs. It should be an absolute last resort, for a breakdown or emergency only.
In case of a breakdown
If your car breaks down, it’s important to try and get off the motorway if you can. If you can’t, make sure you stop as far left as you can, with the wheels turned left.
Turn your hazard lights on immediately and if it’s dark or foggy, keep your side lights on. You and any passengers should leave the vehicle using the doors on the left-hand side and stand behind the barrier. If you have any animals with you, keep them in the car – even if they’re on a lead there’s a chance they could run off, which could be disastrous for your pet and other traffic. Don’t attempt to make a repair yourself, but call your breakdown provider and request assistance.
Motorway driving is the perfect opportunity to drive your car more economically. Not only does it save you money, but you’re also helping the environment by reducing emissions. Aggressive braking, accelerating, and frequent gear shifting are all ways to use up fuel unnecessarily. You should maintain a consistent speed for optimum fuel efficiency. If you have an MPG consumption display, pay close attention to it – target your ideal MPG and adjust your speed accordingly to make long-term fuel savings.
Reducing weight by removing roof racks or unnecessary luggage makes a big difference to the amount of fuel used throughout a journey, as does improving aerodynamics by keeping windows and sunroof closed. This will result in far less wear and tear on your car.
Know your motorway signs
There are certain signs you may be more likely to see on a motorway and it’s worth making sure you remind yourself of these before a journey. For example: amber flashing lights are a warning for a hazard of some kind on the road. If you’re confronted by amber lights, you need to adjust your speed and look out for the hazard until you pass a signal that gives the ‘all clear’ sign.
A potential hazard could be temporary maximum speed limits, lane closures or the need to exit the motorway at the next exit, when accompanied by an arrow pointing to the left. When following temporary signage on the motorway, signs which have a yellow background and either a hollow black square or circle, or a solid black triangle or diamond shape are symbols which show emergency diversion routes for motorway and other main road traffic.
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