Motorway behaviour – it’s just plain embarrassing

Here’s a question for you…

I can guarantee, from my observations, that not everyone knows the correct answer, which is, according to Driving Test Success website:

A two-lane motorway – keep to the left-hand lane for normal driving. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking. Once you have finished overtaking you should move back to the left-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Large goods vehicles are permitted to use either lane.

Three-lane motorway – you should stay in the left-hand lane unless you need to overtake slower moving traffic. To do this you should use the middle lane. If you need to overtake several vehicles then stay in the middle lane. There is no need to weave in and out of the left-hand lane as you overtake individual vehicles.

You should only use the outer lane to overtake slower moving vehicles when the left-hand and middle lanes are occupied with slower moving traffic.

When in either the middle or outer lanes, you must be prepared to move over, to the left or middle lanes, to let faster moving vehicles pass.

Indeed!  If only!!

Basically, whatever motorway you are driving on, these “rules” are simply ignored – by almost everyone!    Which still baffles me as to why our motorways are statistically the safest places to drive in Britain.  Research by the Road Safety Foundation, and published by the Telegraph back in 2013, showed that single carriageway roads seven times more dangerous than motorways! It’s there in black and white so it must be true!

In 2018 Erin Baker, writing for the RAC highlighted the 11 of the most annoying driving habits and at guess what people –  #1 was Middle Lane Hogging.  Despite police pledges to prosecute middle-lane drivers, nothing has changed.  There you’ll find the older person keeping plenty of space around him or herself, totally oblivious to the law and absolutely insistent that they have the right to be where they are and drive at the speed they want.  Or it could be the timid mouse clutching, terrified, to the steering wheel with a fixed gaze – forward – and in no other direction, at any time.  It could be a young guy lost in his music, a family having an argument – it could be you.  In fact it is highly likely to be a lot of you!  Just today I was heading back up the M40 from London and I spotted  a silver Mercedes Vito (registration beginning EN17 Z.. – and yes I do know the rest) in my rear view mirror, who was moving slightly faster than me, I was doing 70 (on cruise control) in the inside lane – honest I was! He slowly passed me – couldn’t have been doing more than 1mph more than me.  About a minute later I had to overtake someone in the inside lane and he appeared in front of me – going significantly slower than he had been previously – but still in the middle lane.  Why? Because he was looking down at his phone, possibly texting someone.  I overtook him, returned to the inside lane and within a minute he came whizzing past me, clearly having finished his “chat” and keen to catch up the lost time – he was doing well over the national speed limit (god I sound virtuous here – pass the sick bag).

That’s not an isolated example – in the past few weeks I’ve driven to the top of Scotland and back and can confidently state that it happens everywhere – people driving in the wrong lane.

In fact I’d go so far as to say we British are the World’s worst motorway drivers – although according to HotCars we don’t even make the top 20 – to be fair this is actually about people who just don’t seem to be able to drive at all…  India only makes #12 – and having been there that’s one place I certainly do not want to drive in!

OK let’s say we’re the worst in Europe – well we can until Brexit happens and then we aren’t in Europe anymore (Cameron you **** – thanks for ****ing it up for us – and now you think we’d be prepared to let you back into politics – think again you total numpty!).  The only place that comes close to us in terms of motorway bad behaviour is Germany, and then only in the rain – the rest of the time they seem totally sensible.  The best motorways to drive on are in Belgium (hey some of them even have their own Wikipedia pages!) and from my experience the most organised and responsive motorists are the Italians – strange but true.  In 2014 Autoexpress published a survey that showed us Brits thought that the Italians were the worst drivers.  And that may well be true in cities and on the twisty roads such as the Amalfi coastline – BUT it’s a different story on motorways.

At least they are predictable and in general they follow the rules.  The drive fast – true, they will let you know they’re coming – also true but unless they are in what many seem to be, a terrible hurry, they WILL stay in the slow lane – they do NOT hog the middle or other lanes.

The problem with drivers hogging the middle lane is then what happens…

  1. for starters on a 3 lane motorway this will lead to more and more people moving to the outside lane to get past them, this naturally causes the traffic to slow, as a concertina or ripple, effect builds up leading to what are termed “phantom traffic jams” – this is one reason why your are more likely to see an accident in the outside lane of a motorway.
  2. undertaking – passing them on the inside – usually accompanied by a long hard stare at them as you go by, possibly accompanied by a bit head shaking and/or finger wagging.  Go on, admit it – you’ve done it – I know I have, and whilst it’s perfectly permissable in the US it isn’t here – ok to be accurate – it is permissable here but only where the queue of traffic in the lane to your right is moving slower than your lane – but that is not the example I am describing here!
  3. overtaking and making a point.  This is the practice, especially on an otherwise empty motorway, of driving up behind a MLH (middle lane hogger) then dropping back and moving into the inside lane before flooring it and zooming quickly up the inside lane and at the last moment swerving to the outside lane to pass them before moving sharply left and back into the inside lane again.

Maybe it’s down to a lack of education – certainly all those years ago when I learnt to drive I didn’t drive on a motorway until after I’d actually passed my test!  Thankfully things are changing:

With the changes that came into effect in June 2018 road safety minister Jesse Norman said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, but road collisions remain the second biggest killer of young people.

“Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways.”

But even then, according to the AA: “more than a third of drivers rarely, if ever, drive on a motorway. If that’s you, you may find motorways daunting or may be unfamiliar with some of the recent innovations.”

Plus you then have to factor in the growth in the volume of traffic – which seems never ending:

RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “While traffic has only increased very slightly on the previous year, it has taken us to record levels. The longer-term picture is more concerning, with overall traffic since 1995 growing by 18.6% in stark contrast to the overall length of our roads, which has only increased by 2.4%.

“The data shows the length of motorways increased by 11.8%, however in the same period traffic levels on motorways increased by 44%, demonstrating that major road usage is outstripping road space.”

The DfT statistics also reveal that the number of cars in Britain has shot up by 43% in the past 20 years, from 21m in 1995 to more than 30m in 2015, yet in that time the length of the country’s roads has only increased by just under 6000 miles.

And there’s more – the shift from shopping on the high street to out of town shopping centres not only started the demise of the traditional high street it also increased the number of journeys people take in their cars.  That trend has now been amplified by the shift to online shopping.  The consequent increase in the number of delivery vans on our roads has only fuelled the frequency of traffic jams.

For the last four years, van traffic has increased on average by 4.8% a year, and has been the fastest growing traffic type (in percentage terms) over this time.

Dear god is there no hope for us?  Well clearly there is – but you’re not going to like it, well if you knit your own yogurt, you’ll definitely hate it!


Don’t spend £42billion (or £60bn as it might finally cost) on a crappy bit of railway – build more roads and help millions of people drive more efficiently as their cars can travel at the average speed it was meant to (c.56mph I believe) and give us more space just like driving in Belgium – ah bliss.

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