There are a lot of people who don’t like motorway driving… places greater demands on both the driver and car! Yet motorways are there to help you travel faster and in greater safety.  Motorways are safer than other roads in that statistically fewer accidents occur on them, but when they do occur they are at higher speed, involve more vehicles, and result in greater loss of life.

JSF Driving School has put together some driving tips to make your motorway experiences safer, more comfortable, and enjoyable.  The articles will be spread over several parts, this being the first, getting you ready for motorway driving!


Before you venture on to a motorway, make sure that you hold a full driving licence for the class of vehicle  you are driving, and that you are aware of The Highway Code concerning motorways.  Motorways have their own rules and regulations, including warning signs and signals.

From 4th June 2018, the transport secretary Chris Grayling recently announced that a change to the law will allow learners to drive on motorways, but only with a qualified driving instructor in a dual-control car. This is particularly important as motorway specific skills a largely left out of the current practical driving test, with low numbers of new drivers take up Pass Plus training or motorway lessons.

It is an offence to stop on the hard shoulder, exit or a slip road unless in an emergency.  Parking is also forbidden apart from in service areas.  This is the reason that it you should never drive on motorways if you are tired or ill, and you should keep your vehicle well ventilated at all times.  Rest stops are important, especially at night!

You should only drive a vehicle which is allowed on a motorway, and always ensure that it is in good working order.  Pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, provisional car licence and motorcycle licence holders are not allowed on motorways at all.  The same applies to motorcycles under 50cc, some slow-moving vehicles with oversized loads (except where special permission has been granted), invalid carriages less than 254kg unladen weight, and agricultural vehicles.

Before setting off, just make a note that high speeds and long distances make it more likely that an ‘unfit’ vehicle will breakdown!  Check your vehicle before you set off including:   the condition and pressure of the tyres; that all the instruments function well; warning lights are working correctly; mirrors are clean and correctly positioned; and that all windows are clean and window washer reservoirs are full.  Also check that your brakes function safely, and that your steering is in order.  It is also worth checking that you have sufficient fuel for the journey, and that your oil and water are topped up.  Higher speeds can use oil more quickly, just as a warmer engine can use up water…..especially in traffic tailbacks in warmer temperatures!

If you are towing or carrying a load on your vehicle, it is well worth checking that everything is safe and secure before you join the motorway.  If something falls off your vehicle, or you notice something fall off another vehicle, then pull onto the hard shoulder and use the emergency telephone to report the information.  NEVER TRY TO RETRIEVE THE ITEM’S YOURSELF!


SIGNS LEADING TO THE MOTORWAY – have white lettering and figures on a blue panel, often bordered in white.  They can either stand alone or be included in other larger signs of various colours.

SIGNS ON THE MOTORWAY – these will include advance direction signs, countdown markers, signs with information about service areas, or signs with brown backgrounds for tourist attractions which can be reached at the next exit.  These signs are larger than ordinary road signs as you are travelling faster and need to see them at a distance.

Each junction will have an identifying number that corresponds to road maps, and allows you to more easily judge when to come off the motorway.

Speed limit signs must be obeyed, and will indicate a speed limit within a red ring.  The limit is mandatory and ignoring it can lead to prosecution.

Black and white rectangular signs recommend maximum speed limits which should be observed.

SIGNALS ON THE MOTORWAY – these act as warnings of dangers ahead including standing traffic, accidents, delays, fog or icy roads.

Amber flashing lights and signs will warn of road works, lane closures or other hazards.  They may also warn of a temporary maximum advisory speed limit.

Red lights will warn you not to go beyond the red light in that lane, and usually takes the form of a red X.  A red light flashing on a slip road means that you must not enter it.  A red light flashing on the central reservation or at the side of the road means that you must not go beyond that point.


This will happen where a main road becomes a motorway, which will be specially signed, or by joining at an entry point such as a slip road.

When joining a motorway, always adjust your speed to that of the traffic already on the motorway, giving that traffic priority.  Usually you will join the left hand lane, but occasionally you may merge from the right, when more care needs to be used.  Always use the MSM/PSL routine, and if necessary a quick glance may be useful to check the position of other vehicles.  Avoid stopping at the end of the slip road unless joining slow moving traffic.

Never force your way into motorway traffic from a slip road, and NEVER drive along the hard shoulder.

You should always indicate your intention to join the motorway, making sure that you can be seen, whilst assessing the speed of the traffic whilst you merge and join the stream.


It is usual for an entrance to arise letting others join the motorway after you have passed a motorway exit.  Make sure that you look well ahead in this situation, especially if there are several vehicles joining the motorway.  Be prepared to adjust your speed, or if safe to do so, move to another lane to make it easier for joining traffic.

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