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We hope these tips are helpful to you. They are intended as general guidance for driving in the UK, and they do not amount to legal advice. We encourage you to view the Highway Code for the latest detailed rules and guidance. There are lots of other sources where you can find more advice too, including the websites of reputable breakdown services.

Driving on the motorway can be daunting for any drivers, especially those who are new to driving or those who don’t use the motorway often. If you don’t know how to use the motorway properly, it can also be dangerous not only to yourself but to those around you too. 

So, whether you’re a new driver or just need a refresher on all the important things you need to know whilst driving on the motorway, then follow our top tips and advice below.

Top tips for driving on the motorway

It’s always vital to remember the rules and best practises for driving on the motorway. So it’s worth keeping in mind our top tips:

  • If it’s your first time driving on the motorway, take another experienced driver with you to help guide and reassure you
  • If you’re nervous, try taking another driving lesson, specifically for the motorway
  • Don’t take passengers with you if it’s your first time on the motorway; it’ll only distract you and could cause an accident 
  • Plan your route in advance so you know which junction to exit the motorway on
  • Do a basic check of your car beforehand, so you don’t run out of fuel or oil
  • Make sure all of your mirrors clean, as you’ll need to check them constantly whilst changing lanes on the motorway
  • Stick to the speed limit, and on motorways the national speed limit is 70mph. However, sometimes you’ll see signs showing slower speeds, so you’ll need to slow down

Remember when you’re driving anywhere, to keep your distance from other cars, following the 2-second gap rule. However, in severe weather conditions such as snow or heavy rain you will need to increase your gap-distance.

How to join the motorway

Arguably, joining the motorway can be one of the most intimidating aspects of driving on the motorway. Knowing when to cross over lanes, checking your mirrors, slowing down and speeding up - there’s a lot to think about! 

Normally as you approach a slip road there will be road signs that will give you the information of what sort of slip to expect.

The most important piece of advice to remember is unless the slip road creates a new lane, the drivers already on the motorway have priority and you have to give way. With this in mind, you’ll need to get your car to match the speed of the traffic you’re joining -  typically merging into traffic that will likely be travelling around 60mph on a normal motorway.

As you move over to the inside lane, remember to check your mirrors and blind spot over your right-hand shoulder. Once you’re confident, move over whilst indicating to make sure everyone around you is aware of what you’re doing.

When driving, keep in mind your exit junction and where you need to come off so you’re leaving yourself plenty of time to change lanes.

Which motorway lane is best for me?

Many people always believe that there is such a thing as a ‘fast lane’ and a ‘slow lane’ on the motorway. It’s really important to know that this is not true at all. The three lanes are used for the following reasons unless road signage suggests otherwise: 

  • Lane 1 (left-hand lane): normal driving
  • Lane 2 (middle lane): overtaking 
  • Lane 3 (right-hand lane) overtaking

Vehicle types and motorway lanes

There are also a few rules in terms of the vehicle you’re driving and which lanes you can use. For example, the following vehicles are never allowed to use the right-hand lane:

  • Vehicles with trailers
  • Speed limited vehicles for goods (between 3.5 and 7.5 tonnes)
  • Any vehicle over 7.5 tonnes
  • Speed limited vehicles carrying more than 8 passengers

Overtaking on the motorway

Some drivers, especially when new to driving, don’t really know when it's best to overtake on the motorway, or feel too nervous to do so. 

The number one rule to keep in mind, is you only overtake when it’s safe and legal. You’re not allowed to undertake - which is essentially overtaking on the left. Once you have overtaken, you should move into the left-hand lane again, as hogging the middle lane is not only annoying to drivers wishing to overtake, but it’s also an offence.

There’s one circumstance where it is technically okay to overtake on the left - this is if all the traffic is moving very slowly and the left lane is moving faster. Just remember, you’re not allowed to weave in and out of the traffic to get ahead. 

When moving lanes into the left-hand lane, you should always take care and be extra vigilant - just in case there’s a driver trying to overtake into your lane. And always use your indicators to warn other drivers.

What do the reflective lights mean?

At night, there are small reflective studs on the motorway that help guide you and keep you in your lane. These lights can appear in different colours on the motorway, and each colour has a different meaning to help drivers. The following colours mean:

  • Red - Hard shoulder division
  • Amber - Central reservation division
  • White - Mid-lane division
  • Green - Slip road division

Remember that confidence and skills develop the more times you use the motorway. You’ll start to remember more tips, and it’ll begin to feel natural! Just make sure that if you ever do feel unsafe or nervous about driving on the motorway, bringing an experienced driver with you, will make you feel more at ease.

What are smart motorways?

As more and more smart motorways are being rolled out across the UK, it’s crucial that drivers and riders understand what they are and how to use them. 

The development of smart motorways, by Highways England, is to help manage traffic effectively, whilst minimising the environmental impact, cost, and time of building additional lanes.

Smart motorways are a part of the motorway itself, they help reduce traffic congestion by using traffic management methods. The methods can include using the hard shoulder and using speed limits depending on the situation to help maintain the flow of traffic. 

Whether you’re driving on the smart motorway or not, the standard motorway rules remain the same. So keep in mind our top tips for driving on any motorway to stay safe and become more confident.