Make sure your car is ready for a drive on the Motorway
High speeds and long distances can increase the chance of your car breaking down so you are recommended to carry out the following checks on your vehicle beforehand:
Tyres: Make sure they’re in good condition and inflated to the correct pressure for motorway driving. This is indicated in the vehicle handbook or drivers door pannel. Use a reliable pressure gauge, check and adjust pressures when tyres are cold, don’t forget spare tyre, remember to refit valve caps. Check the tyre tyres depth and that there are no cuts and bulges. There should be 1.6mm of tread depth across the central three-quarters of the breadth of the tyre, and around the entire outer circumference of the tyre.
Displaying any faults?: Make sure there are no mechanical faults lit up on the dash display.
Mirrors: Make sure your mirrors are visibily clean and correctly positioned.
Windscreen and windows: Make sure they are visible clear, clean and that the screen wash has been topped up.
Lights and indicators: Make sure that you have checked all your lights are working correctly including brake lights.
Fuel: Make sure you have more than enough fuel so you don’t run out between service areas, remember that you may get caught in traffic which can consume unplanned fuel.
Oil Level: Check that the oil level is correct before you set off when the engine is cool. Identify dipstick/oil level indicator, check the oil level against the minimum and maximum markers.
Hydraulic Brake Fluid Level: Identify the reservoir, check the level against high and low markings.
Coolant: Check that the engine coolant level is correct. Higher speeds mean higher engine temperature. Identify high and low level markings on header tank where fitted or radiator filler and top up if needed.
Brakes: Check your brakes before setting off. Brakes should not feel spongy or slack. Brakes should be tested as you set off. Vehicle should not pull to one side.
Power Steering: check that your power steering is functioning correctly. If it is not functioning correctly the steering becomes heavy, the system may not be working properly. Before starting a journey, 2 simple checks can be made. Apply gentle pressure on the steering wheel, maintained while the engine is started, should result in a slight but noticeable movement as the system begins to operate. Alternatively turning the steering wheel just after moving off will give an immediate indication that the power assistance is functioning.
Load and Capacity: Make sure that any load you’re carrying is secure and that you have taken into consideration the vehicles maximum load capacity. The load you are carrying should also not obscure your visibility.
Your Own Preparation As A Driver Before Driving On The Motorway
You should have a thorough understanding of the section of the Highway Code dealing with motorways. You can ask for this to be covered as part of your driver training with your instructor. This can’t be done with anyone other than a qualified instructor when you still have a provisional license.
After you have passed your driving-test you can take your Pass Plus which also covers Motorway Driving so that you can gain experience and build on your confidence and understanding.
You should be familiar with motorway signs.
You should be fit and alert. Never set out on a journey if you’re unwell or tired, especially on a motorway. Take an energy or caffeinated drink and snack with you encase you feel tired and pull into a safe place such as a service station to have a rest or break.
Plan your route beforehand with a map or sat nav. Have a back up plan encase you need a diversion due to unforeseen traffic jams.
Estimate journey time and leave enough time so that you won’t be late and factor in the time needed to take sufficient breaks along the way.
Allow for these regular breaks and refreshments at sufficient intervals during the journe
How to join the Motorway Safely
On the slip road, Check your mirrors and indicate right.
Traffic on the motorway has priority, but look out for drivers letting you join, otherwise you need to judge a safe opportunity to join.
If the left lane of the slip road is clear then use it. If not then use the right lane but do not travel alongside another vehicle as this will cause problems as you merge with the inside lane.
Regulate your speed so that you arrive at a gap in the traffic. Whether you speed up or slow down slightly to do this, make sure that by the time you’re merging with the traffic, you’re matching its speed.
A sideways glance or look over your right shoulder will verify the position and speed of traffic on the motorway.
Don’t stop at the end of the slip road unless queuing to join slow moving traffic.
Once on the motorway, cancel your signal and stay to the left hand lane until you’ve had time to judge and adjust to the traffic already on the motorway.
Driving Safely on the Motorway
Where possible return to the left lane after using the middle and right lanes for overtaking.
Always keep to the centre of your lane.
Only change lanes if you are planning on overtaking or just returning to the left to curise.
When overtaking, start the MSPSL routine earlier than normal. The higher speeds mean you should give more notice.
Before overtaking, make sure there is no fast moving traffic approaching from behind. If there is, then hold off your signal and let it pass first. Don’t leave your signal on as traffic passes, it can be very disconcerting for them and as a result, dangerous.
Look out especially for motorbikes. Their narrow profile can make them difficult to see and they sometimes weave between lanes.
Consider a blind spot check before changing lanes but make sure your attention returns promptly back to the road ahead.
Pull out smoothly, not sharply. Sharp steering at high speeds can cause the vehicle to lose control.
Watch out for vehicles pulling out to overtake as you pass them. Watch out for their indicators and be prepared to hold back if need be.
You can overtake multiple vehicles in one go.
When you see the whole of the vehicle you’re overtaking in the interior mirror, then indicate and pull smoothly back over.
Never cross two lanes in one go. Use the MSM routine independently, each time you change lanes.
Don’t overtake on the left unless in queuing traffic and the queue on your right is moving more slowly than the one you’re in.
Be prepared to change lanes to allow traffic to enter after a motorway junction. Move over in good time.
General Motorway Practice
Keep your distance from the vehicle in front. Apply the two second rule or the four second rule in the wet. Where chevrons are present, use them to judge your distance.
Keep your eyes moving so that you know what’s around you at all times. Things can change very quickly.
Brake progressively not sharply. Anticipate well ahead avoiding having to brake suddenly. If you see traffic bunching up ahead, consider putting your hazard lights on to warn following traffic.
Don’t stay alongside vehicles, in their blind spots, especially large vehicles.
Don’t sit in the middle or right lane if the left lane is clear.
Beware when passing large vehicles in the wet. They can create a lot of spray which will temporarily affect your visibility.
Beware when passing large vehicles in windy conditions. They can weave and have strong wind turbulence around them.
Exiting the Motorway Safely
Make sure you are in the left lane way before you are considering entering the slip road. Look out for the signs ahead to tell you when the slip road will appear.
There will usually be road signs from one mile of the exit. Don’t rush but get into the left lane in good time.
Use your mirrors and signal in good time as you approach the exit, try and apply the signal when you reach the 300 yard marker sign.
Maintain the speed of the vehicles in your lane until you’ve entered the slip road. Don’t slow down excessively and cause following vehicles to overtake.
Once on the slip road, slow down progressively and be aware that your judgement of speed will have changed after travelling very fast. 40mph may seem like 20mph. Look ahead for bends and junctions and check your speedometer, making sure that you slow down in good time.
As the motorway regulations end, look out for signs indicating the new road rules, i.e. speed limit, two or one way traffic.
It can take time to adjust back to non-motorway conditions. Be extra careful in this time.
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