Driving on a motorway is an everyday activity for thousands of motorists, and these fast-moving arteries for traffic can offer an efficient and easy way of travelling. They are also statistically the safest roads in the UK. But if you are a new driver, driving an unfamiliar vehicle or are just not used to using motorways then they can be daunting. The high speeds and mixture of vehicles mean our M-roads have a very different feel to country lanes and urban streets. But once you are prepared and familiar with the rules, driving on motorways will soon become second nature.
1. Make sure you are legal
Firstly, not all drivers or vehicles can use the motorway. You’ll not be allowed on until you have passed a test and have a full motorcycle or car licence. Even then, you’ll not be permitted on if you are using a moped or certain slow-moving vehicles such as tractors.
Some routes switch from being A-roads to motorways, so you’ll need to make sure you don’t drive on one by mistake if you’re not allowed. Look out for the warnings and be aware that the signs will change from having green or white backgrounds to blue once you are on the motorway.
2. Make sure your vehicle – and you – are fit and well
Breaking down on a motorway will be scary – especially if it is one of the new ‘Smart’ roads with no permanent hard shoulder. This makes it especially important to ensure your car is properly maintained by professionals such as the aftersales staff at Eden. Pay attention to warning lights and check your tyres regularly too.
Buying fuel from a motorway service station tends to be very expensive, so top up before you join. This advice goes for you too – make sure you feel well enough to drive and have enough refreshments for the journey.
If your car does develop a problem or you feel unwell, leave at the next junction or service area if you can. If that’s not possible, move left onto the hard shoulder or nearest emergency area – these are lay-bys which are clearly painted bright yellow.
If you can, get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle using the passenger door, and get over the safety barrier on to the verge. If your car can’t make it to a refuge or the hard shoulder and is stuck in a live lane, call 999 immediately.
3. Check the route
It’s worth making use of technology to check your route, as a motorway closure could add hours to your journey because you won’t be able to turn around or nip down a side road if you are between junctions.
Most of the cars and vans sold by Eden will have built-in navigation and smartphone connectivity. These will warn you of hold ups using live data and suggest an alternative route. The directions will also give you plenty of warning when it is time to exit the motorway so you can move over in time.
4. Watch the signs
Modern motorways demand that you pay attention to electronic signs which can warn you of upcoming problems and manage speed limits. A red X showed above a lane means it is closed and you must not pass underneath it, or you could be fined. Watch for the changing speed limits too – motorways have police cameras which can catch you out, especially in road works.
5. Stay left
There is no such thing as a ‘slow lane’ or ‘fast lane’. The Highway Code says you must stay left if you are not overtaking. Staying in the middle or right-hand lanes when you are not passing slower vehicles will infuriate other drivers and could land you with a fine from the police.