|JimmerUK's Guide to Motorway Driving|
|Monday, 13 August 2007 23:57|
Due to Everyone's Favourite Jim having family in all four corners of the country, and because of his last job, Jim has done and does do a lot of motorway driving. There's nothing that irks him more than people who don't know motorway etiquette... and the last thing you want to do is irk him. So here's some guidelines for using Britain's motorways without pissing him off.
I do a lot of motorway miles, over long distances, and like to think that I'm a little more experienced than most. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who are either deliberately stupid, or just completely moronic driving on the highways of our great country. Nothing gets me angrier than other people who by their actions or inaction slow me down when I'm on my way somewhere.
Before I start, I'd like to make a few things clear. I drive a reasonably fast car and I drive it fast. This article is not about keeping within the law necessarily, it's about common courtesy for your fellow drivers. The modern motorway speed limit was introduced in 1965 as a temporary measure when 70mph represented the maximum speed for more than 80% of cars on the road. This is no longer the case. I am more than comfortable driving along a literally deserted M1 at 120mph, as is my car, and I personally see no problems with that. I wouldn't, however, drive along at 120mph on a rainy M25 during rush-hour. I believe that drivers should drive at a speed that both their vehicle and abilities allow, speed doesn't kill, incompetent drivers do... but this isn't about that (I may save that for another article) this is about driving chivalry.
Ok, that over with let's begin.
Keep to the left unless overtaking
It's such a simple rule. One that would probably do more for the congestion of our motorways than anything else, yet people seem to blatantly ignore it. Think of it this way: when you start your motorway journey, keep to the inside lane. When you hit some traffic that's moving slower than you (more than likely trucks, caravans, or old biddys in Austin Maestros) then indicate, move over to the right, and overtake. Once you've successfully passed the vehicle, indicate and then move BACK TO THE LEFT. If you then come up to another slower moving vehicle, repeat the procedure.
Highway Code 238 states "You should drive in the left-hand lane if the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower moving vehicles it may be safer to remain in the centre or outer lanes until the manoeuvre is completed rather than continually changing lanes. Return to the left-hand lane once you have overtaken all the vehicles or if you are delaying traffic behind you. Slow moving or speed restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking."
Whatever you do...
Don't sit in the middle lane
I hate middle lane morons. They persist in sitting in the middle lane happily chugging along oblivious to anyone else around them, causing everyone else to overtake them, thereby pushing more traffic into the outside lane and slowing me down. This is incredibly annoying as other, slightly faster middle lane morons will overtake but only by increasing their speed by a few miles an hour, making the process take anything up to a couple of minutes per car, and I sit behind fuming. This is discourteous and downright rude. Don't worry, there's a simple solution: MOVE THE FUCK OVER! That's it. Simply move over to the empty lane on your left. This will allow faster cars to overtake you in the middle lane, leaving the outside lane open for me to in turn overtake them. Don't use the excuse that you can't undertake,
Highway Code 242 states "In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right."
There is no 'slow lane'
People seem to stay out of the inside lane, and I think it's because it has a stigma. The stigma of the 'Slow Lane'. THERE IS NO SLOW LANE. For that matter, there is no fast lane. Where in the highway code does it section off the lanes into speed zones? Maybe the inside is for cars doing between 50-60, the middle 60-70, and the outside 70+? The highway code does not say this, because it's fucking stupid. If I overtake a block of traffic, and then see nothing in the inside lane then I will move to the inside lane, even if I'm driving at 70mph+ in the outside lane. This allows faster vehicles (whippets with dynamite up their bum, fighter jets, and Jeremy Clarkson) to overtake me. Don't stay out of the inside lane because you think it's for slow cars.
Your definition of speed is not the same as mine, and regardless of what you think...
You are not the fastest car on the motorway
I am. Not because I have the fastest car, just because I am prepared to drive faster than others. On the rare occasion that another car wants to overtake me, I follow my own guidelines. I let him know I've seen him and move over at the earliest opportunity. I...
Do not slow other people down deliberately
It has happened to me on more than one occasion. A driver will deliberately sit in the outside lane slowly overtaking cars, and not moving over, when they know full well that I want to get past. I can hear them thinking "Well I'm breaking the speed limit, as I'm going 75mph, so I have every right to be in this lane". FUCK OFF and move over. I don't care that you're driving at 75mph, or whether that's over the speed limit or not. I want to go faster. I want to drive at 120mph and you are in my way. At the earliest opportunity simply pull over to the middle lane, let me pass, then you can pull back out again when you come up against cars going 68mph so long as you move back again. It's not difficult, just be courteous, and vigilant.
It's the same as the ability to...
Know the difference between Police and Highways Patrol
It can be a little confusing, but if you took some time out to learn the difference it wouldn't be. That way you wouldn't slow down unnecessarily. You don't get your wife confused with her sister. They may look similar but you know the difference enough not to bend your sister-in-law over the kitchen sink, give her three minutes of pure man-love ecstasy, come all over her back, then ask her why dinner's late as you zip up your fly. The same principles apply. Highways Agency patrol cars look the same up and down the land. They are always some type of 4x4 (or SUV for our American cousins). Yes they have yellow and orange chevrons on the back, but they are accompanied by the words "Highways Agency" on the spare wheel. Admittedly this can be a little difficult to see, especially at a distance, fortunately there are other pointers. Highways vehicles have black and yellow squares on the side. They have orange lights, not blue, and they're almost always on the inside lane.
They cannot pull you over, arrest you, or caution you, so don't worry, and whatever you do...
Do not brake unless you need to
This happens a lot when cars approach Highways Patrol, Police cars, and speed cameras. Drivers will slam on the anchors when confronted with one of these things, so as not to get caught speeding, even if they're only doing a few miles an hour over the limit. DON'T DO IT. Even tapping your brakes can cause tail-backs behind you. It works like this; you tap your brakes, the driver behind hits his brakes immediately, but doesn't take them off until after you do, thereby leaving his brakes on for longer. The driver behind him will do the same, but again for longer, and again, and again, until eventually a mile down the road everyone is at a standstill, all because you didn't want to go through a speed-trap at 73mph. You twat. Unless the car in front is slowing down considerably, all you have to do is take your foot off the accelerator. That's right, instead of braking, just stop going faster, it's not bloody rocket science, and amounts to the same thing.
If you find yourself coming up to a speed-trap over the limit, take your foot off the gas in advance, you'll have slowed down enough not to set it off by the time you go through it, but that shouldn't matter because...
Speed cameras will not catch you going 1mph over the limit
A lot of people think that if they're only 1 mile an hour over the limit they will get flashed by a camera, and therefore brake before going though. This is most prevalent on the M25 Heathrow stretch. First rule, if you don't want to risk getting caught speeding through a camera, don't fucking speed, that's the gamble you take. If you're not a gambling person, get out of my way. There's a reason you'll see me going through a camera at up to 85mph, and that's because in my experience most cameras have a rough 20% tolerance. If the variable speed limit is set at 50mph, you can pretty much drive through it at 60mph. If it's set at 60 you're safe at 70+, if it's 70 you're safe at 85mph. Oh, and if there's no speed limit displayed on the gantry, go through as fast as you like, they're not even on. Yes people, the speed cameras are not activated unless a speed limit is displayed, so theoretically you could blast through them at 120 if there's no restriction. I can pretty much all but guarantee this as I only have only ever had one speeding ticket. That was in Kent coming off a dual carriageway from 40 to 30 and I got caught doing 37 by a forward facing Truvello camera which was right at the limit change, and has since been moved.
Now that we've got cameras out of the way it's also good to know...
The Police will not arrest you for slightly speeding
They can't be bothered to arrest you for going 5, 10, or even 15mph over the limit. It's not worth their while. If you're driving sensibly, they'll pretty much let you get away with it. If you're driving like a prick, however, they're going to nick you whatever speed you're traveling at. If you're over the speed limit and the police see you, they'll let you know they've seen you by pulling behind you, keeping pace with you, or pulling up in front (if you're a little too fast), but they're not going to stop you unless you're way over. If you are speeding and approach a Police car, don't slam on your brakes. As well as being annoying and causing the troubles above, it's also a big sign to the Police that you've been speeding, in fact it's two big red flashy lights attached to the back of your car saying "I've been speeding". Simply take your foot off the gas, bite the bullet and go past the police. By the time you're in front of them you should have slowed down sufficiently for them to not notice. The police cannot arrest you for speeding behind them, so you could approach them at 150mph, but if you pass them at 72 they still can't do anything. They also aren't able to arrest you on the spot. The police have to follow you for a mile to get an average speed before they have enough evidence to prosecute you, so don't stress, and don't brake. Calmly take your foot off the accelerator, and all will be well.
That's all well and good regarding police who might be driving, but what about police who are pulled over on the hard shoulder already nicking someone? For fuck's sake...
Do not slow down for stationary police
Missus JimmerUK does occasionally warn me about police who are pulled over on the hard shoulder, possibly already nicking someone (more than likely a Beamer with blacked out windows, a mobile branch of Halfords, or a 1.2 shitty Corsa with burberry clad twats inside). When she does I always ask her the same thing: "What are they going to do? Leave what they're already doing, run to their cars, jump in and chase me instead?" No. Of course they're bloody not. So don't fucking brake.
The police are more likely to pull you over for other things, so...
Don't have your fog-lights on unless it's foggy
Fog-lights. Two words which imply one thing; lights for when it's foggy. They serve no other purpose. They're not called 'look cool lights' because you don't. Fog lights when it's not foggy only serve to annoy me and your fellow road users. They're for use when visibility is seriously impaired - generally when you cannot see for more than 100 metres (328 feet). You look like a prick with them on, turn them off. You can't see them anyway, the only indication you have that they're on is a blue light on your dash. If you want, you can pretend you have them on, to you it's the same thing. If you really must, take the wrapper from a chocolate in a pack of Quality Street cut it into a circle and stick it on your dash. Oh, by the way, there's a fixed penalty of £30 for foglight misuse, but I reckon it should be a lot more.
Whilst we're talking about lights...
Use your indicators
If you are someone who does do a bit of overtaking, make sure you indicate. It's one of the first things you learn when you drive a car; mirror, signal, manouvre. So why do you bloody well forget or just not bother to do it when on the motorway. It's probably one of the most dangerous things. Just because you can't see me when you're about to pull out doesn't mean I'm not there, and I'm not a fucking mind-reader so I don't know what you're going to do until you do it, that's what the indicators are for. Cunning huh?
Highway code 241 states "Do not overtake unless you are sure it is safe to do so. Overtake only on the right. You should check your mirrors, take time to judge the speeds correctly, make sure that the lane you will be joining is sufficiently clear ahead and behind, take a quick sideways glance into the blind spot area to verify the position of a vehicle that may have disappeared from your view in the mirror, remember that traffic may be coming up behind you very quickly. Check your mirrors carefully. When it is safe to do so, signal in plenty of time, then move out." It's not difficult, and doesn't involve any extra energy, in fact you can knock the indicator stalk with your hand on the way to picking your nose.
So that's it. There's probably a few more that I've wiped from my mind, so this could probably turn into a working document. When you're in a car with me you'll know that I am quite happy to tell anyone and everyone all of this information in a verbal format, accompanied by many expletives.
Above all, all I ask is that you obey Highway Code 122: "You MUST NOT drive dangerously, drive without due care and attention, or drive without reasonable consideration for other road users."
If you don't you'll see me in your review mirror flashing my headlights.
Disclaimer: Use this information at your own risk. If you get arrested don't come running to me. None of my advice is legally proved, is based wholly on experience, and could well be inaccurate.