Motorway driving tips

You may or may not be aware that, statistically, motorways are the safest roads in the UK. In fact, they only account for 5% of the fatalities on our roads.

Many drivers find motorway driving easy, but it is undeniably the case that many of us – experienced drivers included – are understandably nervous when faced with the prospect of travelling long distances on these busy, fast-moving highways.

With that in mind, we have spoken to a couple of industry experts to come up with a list of top motorway driving tips. If you are someone who occasionally feels anxious about it, be sure to put your mind at ease by reading the below advice before you set off on your next journey.

How to overcome motorway driving anxiety


Match your speed when joining

Many people find that getting onto the road in the first place is one of the worst things about motorway driving.

However, it’s important to remember that your fellow drivers have just as much responsibility as you when it comes to joining traffic. 

Drivers already on the motorway will have advance warning that slip roads are coming up and it is their place to make sure those who are coming onto the road have the time and space they need by moving across into another lane when it is safe to do so.

For your part, the most important thing you need to bear in mind is that you should not be hesitant. Ideally, you should try to match the speed of the cars already on the motorway when you join, so as not to disrupt the flow of traffic. 

You will have to be prepared to slow down a bit if you can see that others are struggling to let you join due to particularly heavy traffic. But that is rare.


Use your mirrors

Learning how to use your mirrors correctly was probably one of the first things you were taught when learning to drive. But the old ‘mirror, signal, manoeuvre’ routine is something which many of us become rather lax with once we have been driving for a few years.

When travelling on the motorway, however, making regular use of your mirrors is vital. The most important part of travelling on these busy roads is being aware of the fast-moving traffic around you, and checking both your wing and rear mirrors (and your blind spot) is the best way to make sure you do this.

Doing this will allow you to get a good idea of the volume of traffic that may be building up behind you and will make you aware of any other drivers who may be coming up behind you at speed.

Overtake safely

Always check your mirrors and keep vigilant for a space in the traffic to your right. 

Then look over your shoulder and check there's no vehicles in your blind spot. 

Once it's safe to do so, signal that you're changing lanes and move out carefully. 

Remember to return to the inside lane after you've overtaken.

Make sure you never undertake - we know it can be tempting to undertake those middle-lane hoggers. But it can be dangerous and you could get fined. 


Take regular breaks

If you have ever been a passenger of someone else driving on the motorway, you will probably have seen the signs reminding drivers that ‘tiredness can kill – take a break’.

Many of us like to think that fatigue doesn’t affect us that much and that, even if we do feel exhausted, it’s nothing that can’t be sorted out with a cup of coffee or energy drink before setting off. Unfortunately, though, this can often prove to be a naïve attitude to have when it comes to motorway driving.

Even if you feel fine when you start your journey, the chances are that you will stop feeling fresh after a couple of hours or so of travelling. The intense concentration that is required while travelling on fast roads is enough to sap energy from anyone. And it has to be said that motorways tend to be fairly dull places to look at. Which can also contribute to motorway driving being much more exhausting than winding your way along a country road.

Taking a break every two hours is a good rule to set yourself. You do not need to stop for long, so you won’t have to worry about too much time being added onto your journey; a 15-minute ‘pit stop’ should be more than enough – the important thing is that you have a brief change of scene and stretch your legs in order to be in the best frame of mind for your onward journey.

Keep your distance

This may be an old piece of advice but it’s nevertheless one of the most important ones to keep in mind when driving on the motorway, or on any journey in fact: keep your distance from the car in front.

To get a new perspective on this tried and tested guidance, we spoke to Neil Worth, an expert at GEM Motoring Assist, who run their own road safety charity. 

Neil said, “Drivers regularly place being tailgated up there at the top of the list of annoying, unpleasant and dangerous things they experience on the road. 

"According to the Highway Code, if you’re driving at 70mph you will need a minimum of 96 metres to come to a stop. This relies on you being alert and able to react immediately to any potential problems you’ve spotted ahead. Any sort of distraction will compromise that ability, meaning you will continue driving towards the problem at more than 60 metres per second.

“The two-second rule is a great guide, and it works because it’s time-based, not distance-based. There’s flexibility that matches your speed, so it doesn’t mean carrying a spreadsheet of distances and speeds around in your head. 

“We know that some aggressive drivers deliberately choose a close-following position in an attempt to intimidate those in front of them. Others may follow too closely simply because they’re not paying attention or they’re simply not aware of the space they would need to stop if anything went wrong ahead of them. They don’t mean anyone else any harm, but they’re still putting lives at risk."

Nevertheless, the two-second rule is a vital practice to prevent accidents and ensure a quick, responsive reaction to potential hazards on the road.


Additional tips to help you keep your distance:

  • In wet weather, two seconds needs to become four seconds. This is because reduced visibility means spotting hazards is harder, and tyres have less grip on wet roads, meaning it takes longer to stop.
  • Don’t assume that different rules apply to drivers of modern cars with fantastic brakes. Effective braking – and doing it early enough – still relies on observant, alert drivers.
  • Check your driver seating position to ensure you can brake hard if you suddenly need to. This can be compromised if your seat is positioned too far forward, or too far back.
  • Make a habit of observing what’s going on beyond the vehicle in front. Seeing the possible problems well ahead on the motorway means fewer nasty surprises.
  • If you’re concerned that someone is following you too closely, then leave plenty of extra room ahead of you in your lane so that you can lose speed gradually if you need to.

Be confident

Finally, the most important piece of advice: trust your driving skills.

As we mentioned at the top of the page, motorways are actually the safest type of road in the UK. More than anything, it’s our natural fear of the unknown that makes many of us anxious about travelling on them. 

However, if you just bear in mind the safety essentials you learnt during your driving lessons – as well as the tips above – you will be absolutely fine. By the time you get to your destination, you will wonder what it is you were worrying about!

It doesn't matter whether you have just started driving or regularly travel long distances in your lease car, sticking to the simple rules discussed above will not just ensure that you stay safe but that you are able to truly enjoy your next motorway driving experience.

Driving on the motorway at night?

Sarah Hunt

Sarah Hunt

Sarah is the Head of Marketing and she's tasked with keeping the fantastic marketing team in line. She's probably the reason you've heard of us, and her wealth of marketing experience means that no challenge is too big.