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Drive Safely on the Motorway 


Whilst motorways are statistically our safest roads, when collisions do occur, they can be severe due to the high speeds that traffic travels. The maximum speed limit for cars and motorcycles on motorways is 70mph but for vehicles towing a caravan or trailer, HGVs, articulated goods vehicles and buses or coaches over 12 meters in the length, the limit is 60mph.

Due to high speeds, always keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you. Stopping distances are increased at speed and so the 2 second rule should be followed. Two seconds is the minimum time there should be between you and the vehicle in front. In wet weather, it is recommended that this time is increased to four seconds. Start counting when the vehicle in front passes a landmark, then make sure you pass the same landmark no less than 2 seconds later.

It is important to understand the meaning of motorway signals and variable signs. These usually inform you about traffic conditions ahead and can indicate a speed limit. When the variable speed limit mounted over individual lanes is shown in a red ring, the limit is mandatory. If red lights on the overhead signals flash above your lane and a red ’X’ is showing, you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in that lane. If red lights flash on a signal in the central reservation or at the side of the road, you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in any lane.

Do not overtake unless it is safe and legal to do so. Overtake only on the right and remember you should:

  • Check all your mirrors carefully and lookout for motorcyclists as traffic may be coming up behind you very quickly
  • Take time to judge the speeds of other vehicles correctly
  • Make sure that the lane you are joining is sufficiently clear ahead and behind
  • Take a sideways glance into the blind spot area to check the position of a vehicle that may have disappeared from your view in the mirror
  • When it is safe, signal in plenty of time, then move out
  • Make sure you do not cut in on the vehicle you have overtaken
  • Take special care at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance

Take particular care when overtaking left hand drive foreign lorries and be aware of their blind spots on their right hand passenger side. Never drive too close and when planning to overtake, drop back to give the driver a better chance of seeing you.

For more information about safe motorway driving, update your knowledge of The Highway Code (