Despite them being by far the safest roads of Britain, motorway driving can be a terribly daunting, anxious and nerve-racking experience for many drivers. This is certainly the case for new drivers and those not used to long trips.
However, even experienced drivers such as field-based staff would do well to take a read through these tips. Complacency with your driving skills can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than the most inexperienced of motorists.
Before taking your car on the motorway
Ahead of any long trip, and ideally as a regular part of car maintenance and upkeep, it is always sensible to check the basics in your car. You should monitor your oil, for example, as well as the brake fluid and clutch fluid. Other items to check include the windscreen washer fluid, particularly when travelling in the winter months, and the tyre pressure. Onboard diagnostics in modern cars may help alert you to issues, but a personal check will never hurt.
Planning your journey ahead of setting off makes sense, even with a satnav. That way, you will be able to plan your rest stops, which should ideally be at least 15 minutes every two hours, and help you know which junctions you will need to use during your journey. Packing a blanket, extra clothing, drinking water, food, and a comfortable pair of shoes is also sensible.
When you’re on the road
Motorways are safe due to the general constant speed of traffic flow and nature of motorway structures. However, you should always ensure you remain alert and pay attention to the ‘two-second rule’. This is simply keeping a steady two seconds behind the car in front to allow for a safe reaction time.
Understanding the weather conditions is also important, and you need to adapt your travel plans, driving style and the time you give yourself according to this. For example, keeping a four-second distance between cars in front and behind is sensible in wet and slippery conditions, or as visibility deteriorates.
Another basic matter to be aware of when travelling on motorways is to control your speed appropriately to the conditions and traffic around. Too slow is just as dangerous as too fast. Other essentials include indicating before changing lanes, keeping left unless overtaking, being aware of traffic around you, checking your mirrors regularly and keeping all in-car distractions to a minimum.
Breaking down on the motorway
Having a problem with your car on the motorway is always frustrating and can be incredibly worrying. While maintaining your car adequately and performing the basic checks discussed above can minimise car failure, things can still go wrong. However, staying calm and not panicking is the order of the day.
As soon as you become aware of a problem with your car you should safely move over to the hard shoulder and stop as far over to the left as is possible and safe. You should then immediately put your hazard lights on to warn other road users and get out of the car, moving a reasonable distance away on the verge.
All across the motorways of Britain are emergency phones, which will automatically give your position to the relevant parties. If calling from your mobile, it is essential to give as complete details as to your location as possible, but your car recovery service, often available as part of car leasing or purchase packages, will help you through this.
You should then wait for the recovery vehicle to arrive. However, should another vehicle approach and stop, you should return to your car and lock yourself in. If approached by another road user, you should inform them that stopping on the motorway, even to offer assistance, is illegal.