Contrary to popular belief, it’s not the increased speed required on motorways or the heavier traffic that causes accidents, but the way people drive. To make sure you have the safest motorway drive possible, the Department for Transport’s THINK! Road Safety website gives some simple tips to abide by. These include:
Before you leave
Check your brakes, lights, engine, and oil and water levels, and work out what route you are going by. Direct Line has a handy route planner that helps you find the best route from A to B, with an option to find a motorway route as well as recommended, shortest and quickest ones and can also tell you landmarks to look out for on the way. Your search gives you tailored driving directions, a road map displaying the entire journey, the total distance covered, the estimated time it will take and the petrol cost. You can even find out about weather conditions on your route!
Keep left except when overtaking
If you are overtaking a number of slower vehicles then it may be safer to stay in the middle or outer lane rather than continually switching lanes. This will help traffic move freely and avoid irritating other drivers.
Check your distance
Always an important one wherever you're driving. A press release from the Highways Agency in 2007 states that driving too close to the car in front is a contributory factor in many personal injury accidents on the motorway network. Tailgating is also a major cause of road rage on motorways.
Watch your speed
The law says that the speed limit for cars, motorbikes, light vehicles and buses and coaches less than 12 metres long on motorways is 70mph. For vehicles towing a caravan or trailer, HGVs, articulated lorries and buses and coaches more than 12 metres long, it's 60mph.
If you get caught by one of the increased number of speed cameras, then you could also be hit with a minimum fine of £60 and have three penalty points added to your licence. For more details on speed cameras visit GOV.UK.
Some drivers would argue that the speed limit should be increased to 80mph – and many drivers do illegally drive at speeds greater than the limit – but the faster we drive, the less time we have to react and the harder we hit. The Parliamentary Transport Committee estimates that an increase in the speed limit to 80mph would result in a 10% increase in accidents on motorways. Visit Brake for more details on this debate.
Staying within the speed limit is essential but driving too slow can also be dangerous.
In an emergency
If you break down, then you should pull onto the hard shoulder as close to the verge as possible and turn on your hazard warning lights. There are emergency phones every 1,500 metres (about a mile), so you can call for help if you don’t have a mobile. You should then wait as far away from traffic as you can. See our page on breaking down on the motorway for more advice on what to do if you’re ever in this situation.
For other stops such as checking a map, making a phone call or waiting for friends driving behind you, go to a service station.
If you do run into problems Direct Line car insurance can cover you for accidents. We include an Accident Action Pack with every new policy and access to a 24-hour Accident Helpline. Our Breakdown policy can also provide breakdown rescue and repair.
At roadworks, keep to the designated speed limit, which is usually 50mph. You should also keep a safe distance as there may be queues ahead and traffic could pull up suddenly. Get details of traffic conditions on UK roads and motorways from the Highways Agency and BBC Travel News.
You don’t want to take risks on the motorway, so don’t risk driving without adequate car insurance – apply for a car insurance quote via our website today.
Breaking down on the motorway – how and where to stop your car safely if you breakdown on the motorway
Driving alone – checks you should make to prevent breakdowns and safe parking advice
Accident protocol – 12 rules to remember should you be involved in a car accident