Motorways make up a huge amount of the driving that the everyday motorhome owner does and in the UK, even some of the worse A-roads can be variable and unsuitable for heavier vehicles. However, motorway driving is given almost no attention in the UK driving theory and practical tests and very little at all in motorhome-specific licensing tests.
Of course, much of motorway driving comes through experience but, as announced last week, the laws on how ‘middle-lane hoggers’ and motorway tailgaters are fined are set to change and motorway safety and, in particular, motorway etiquette is going to be top of the bill for discussion in the UK. So, to help you through a complex topic, here’s our guide to correctly navigating the motorways…
Stay the Same Speed (In Theory)
The theory of the motorway is that everyone is allowed to drive at a particular speed and overtake as and when necessary. There are enough lanes for multiple cars to pass one another at any point and slower vehicles like lorries or motorhomes are easy to overtake.
This all relies, of course, on predictability and judgement. A car looking to overtake you will choose to do so on the basis of your current speed and their current speed. Any unnecessary changes in your speed are unpredictable and could affect the other vehicle’s decision making process. Of course, this isn’t a hard and fast rule and you will need to brake and speed up occasionally, but consistency really does help things run smoothly.
Move Lanes Decisively and Infrequently
In the same way as you should keep your speed constant, keeping in the same lane – for motorhome owners the left-hand lane – as much as you can is ideal. It allows other traffic to pass by you in the two overtaking lanes much more easily. Though you should return to the left-hand lane quickly after overtaking, do so smoothly and with clear indication.
The added weight and height of a motorhome over a car means chopping and changing lanes can actually cause your motorhome to roll. For most motorhomes it’s wise to avoid the ‘fast’ lane unless absolutely necessary and to avoid swerving or late changes.
Motorways are designed for overtaking and so passing lorries or slower vehicles is a skill that you need to be confident of. The difference with a motorhome is that overtaking will, generally, take you a bit of time, so you need to be sure you have both some clear road behind you and ahead of you before you start to overtake.
Another common problem is that motorhome owners misjudge their speed and the distance to go before a junction or a turn-off. This can cause cars behind to bunch up, pressuring your overtaking manoeuvre while those on the slip-road struggle to find space to get on. Be cautious overtaking in heavy traffic and avoid doing so if you can see a junction coming up.
Merging On and Off
Merging is also a worry for motorhome owners and we do receive some serious motorhome insurance claims for motorhome owners who have had accidents while merging. Approach speed is important when merging onto a motorway and you will need to be able to slot into traffic, but what’s most important is that you’re able to control and select a gap.
In some cases, approaching the motorway at a slightly slower speed, maybe 55mph can help you get on as, relatively, the gaps come more often. Once you’ve spotted a gap, be decisive and go for it. In most cases those on the motorway will have already spotted that you’re a slow vehicle and should have moved over.
Though the law is quite clear on what should and should not be done on motorways, there is still a lot of motorway driving that is down to etiquette. Moving over if you have a faster driver behind you, for example, and not blocking the middle or outside lane are essential for getting by.
Motorway driving isn’t always stress free, and when you’re dealing with many motorway miles, keeping things pleasant and relations good with those around you is a wise idea. Motorhome owners are known for their courtesy elsewhere, so be mindful of others even if they’re not particularly sympathetic to you.
Experience really counts when it comes to motorway driving and judging distances at speed, overtaking opportunities and merging opportunities really comes with knowing the roads and you motorhome. Even if you’re someone who still feels a little nervous on the slip-road, remember that with time and practice negotiating the M-roads will become like second nature.