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Ten Rules to Keep Safe on Motorways

By: Kevin Dowling BA (IMC) - Updated: 7 Aug 2013 | comments*Discuss
Rules Motorway Motorist Vehicle Car

Driving statistics tell us that motorways are safer roads than urban roads in terms of the number of accidents that happen. Unfortunately, the statistics also point out that due to the speed at which people drive on, the number of fatalities from motorway accidents is significantly higher.

According to the RAC, driving errors account more almost 90% of all motorway accidents, mechanical failure makes up the other 10%. Motorways are chock-full of drivers who are either inexperienced on motorways, ignorant of driving etiquette or how are simply not proficient enough to drive at speeds of 70 miles per hour for long periods of time. So how can drivers ensure they drive safely on the motorway? Here are ten rules to help you stay safe.

Rule One: Avoid Getting Boxed In

When driving on the motorway it is vital to ensure that your vehicle has sufficient space around all sides. Try to remember the two-second rule, whereby once the car in front of you has passed an object it should take at least two seconds before your vehicle passes the same object.

The greater distance between you and the cars around you, the more time you have to slow down suddenly or look for a way out if a driver alongside unexpectedly crowds you or moves into your lane. If you are being ‘tailgated’ by a car behind you, avoid sudden braking to teach the driver a lesson: instead be smart and change lanes or let the other drive pass.

It is also important to remember your vehicle’s blind spot, and to therefore adjust your position in relation to other vehicles to avoid driving into other motorist’s blind spots.

Rule Two: Always Be Aware of your Surroundings

It is all too easy when driving on the motorway to ‘tune out’ and find yourself inadvertently focused only on the road five to ten seconds ahead of you. This is dangerous mindset to be in. Instead you should be looking 15 to 20 seconds ahead of you, as well as being vigilant to your rear and also both sides of your vehicle. By focusing your attention further down the road and beyond the vehicle immediately in front of you, the likelihood is that you will be able to spot potential hazards much sooner, increasing your response time to any danger.

Rule Three: Avoid Distractions

Most collisions between vehicles can be put down to some sort of inattention on the part of either one or both of the drivers.

Sometimes on a long motorway drive multi-tasking is inevitable, but you should avoid doing anything, such as talking on the phone, dealing with disruptive children, eating or reading, that could cause you to lose control of your vehicle or leave you vulnerable to another driver’s error.

Rule Four: Communicate your Intentions

Are you one of those drivers who doesn’t always signal when they are changing lanes or turning? It may seem like an unnecessary courtesy but don’t expect that other drivers will be able to understand your intentions and respond accordingly. An early indication of your manoeuvre will ensure that every motorist around you has a clear idea of what road position you are looking to take and when.

Rule Five: Slow Down in Rain and Snow

When rain, sleet or snow starts to fall on a motorway it creates an invisible film of oil that accumulates as the conditions worsen. This slickness can increase the chances of skidding and make vehicles harder to control when braking.

Tyres have a ‘tread’ on them to channel away water from the surface of the rubber, keeping it closer to the road surface. In wetter conditions the tread is less effective, meaning that the car surfs on top of the road surface instead. Therefore to keep control over your vehicle, make sure that you slow down and keep your tyres in full contact with the road.

Rule Six: manoeuvre out of a skid

The two most common types of skid are simply a result of driver error. Understeer (also known as plowing) happens when you turn so sharply that the front tyres lose their adhesion with the road. Oversteer (also known as fishtailing) happens when the rear wheels exceed their traction before the front tyres do.

With both types of skid you need to apply CPR, or correction, pause and recovery. For both you should respond by thinking about where the vehicle wants to go, steer that way and take the foot off the accelerator until the vehicle feels under your control again.

Rule Seven: Smoother is SaferNot only are erratic driving movements unsettling for other drivers, but they also upset a vehicle’s balance, something which is essential for a driver in order to maintain control. Try to ensure that your manoeuvres such as accelerating, braking, changing lanes and turning are executed slowly and surely at all times. Use the steering wheel in fluid rather than jerky motions.

Rule Eight: Brake DefensivelyThere’s nothing that alarms a driver more on a motorway than to have the driver in front break sharply all of a sudden, with no warning. Good defensive driving involves braking early, and smoothly, before applying more pressure to the brakes as its needed.

Rule Nine: Give Lorries Their Due RespectLorry and truck drivers have a reputation for poor motorway driving, but this reputation is probably only partly deserved. A large vehicle requires an enormous amount of power to get moving at high speeds, and it doesn’t have the ability to manoeuvre or slow down particularly well. When you overtake, always do so to the right of the lorry (eg. never under-take) and make sure that you can see the entire front end of the vehicle before you pull in.

Be alert to the signals that a lorry makes, and what they are looking to achieve. For example, many collisions occur when a lorry pulls to the right to make a left turn, and a driver tries to undertake on the left. When the lorry is completing the turning manoeuvre the car driver is in real danger.

Rule Ten: Maintain Average SpeedsExcessive speed on a motorway is dangerous, but a lack of speed can always pose dangers. A vehicle going slower or faster than the other vehicles around it increases the likelihood of collisions. Try to maintain a good average speed close to but not exceeding the speed limit for the road.

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