10 Essential Motorway Driving Tips

Motorways are designed to be safer than normal roads. This is why the speed limit is higher. They are safer because everyone is moving in the same direction and there is no crossing traffic. Driving on a motorway is quite different to driving on other roads, though, so here are 10 essential motorway driving tips.

1. Go The Right Way

Let’s get the obvious one out of the way first – you can only drive one way. This applies all the time, including on slip roads and hard shoulders. You can’t, for example, reverse on a hard shoulder if you miss your slip road. The only option you have is to drive to the next junction and double back.

2. Joining The Motorway

You join the motorway on a slip road. While on the slip road you should build up your speed while watching the traffic in the lane closest to you. Indicate early and pick your spot. When your speed matches the traffic in the motorway’s left lane, and there is enough space, move into the gap smoothly. Make sure you check your blind spot.

3. Getting Off The Motorway

The key to getting off a motorway safely is planning ahead, as you don’t want to find yourself in the right hand lane with the exit approaching. Watch the motorway signs, and when you see the first one highlighting your exit make sure you are safely in the left lane. Indicate that you are exiting a few hundred metres before the slip road and, when the slip road arrives, move smoothly but promptly into it. Don’t start to slow down until you are in the slip lane.

4. Using The Correct Lane

Most motorways in Ireland have two lanes although there are sections of some that have three lanes or more. You should, as a rule, drive in the left hand lane unless you are overtaking or making space for traffic joining the motorway.

5. Overtaking

You should only ever overtake on the right, and watching the cars around you, including those behind, is crucial. You will have to move into the right lane so you will need to judge the speed and distance of any cars in that lane already. Checking your mirrors and blind spot is part of making sure it is safe to overtake. When it is safe, indicate and move smoothly into the right lane. Stay within the speed limit, and move to the left lane again once you are a safe distance past the car you were overtaking.

6. Watch The Speed Limit

The normal speed limit on Irish motorways is 120 kph, but this isn’t always the case. Various road conditions can cause the traffic authorities to adjust the speed limit, so always be aware of the current speed in your section, and stick to it.

7. Follow The Two Second Rule

Staying a safe distance from the car in front is crucial to safe motorway driving. The Road Safety Authority recommends following the two second rule. Watch the car in front pass a landmark, like a lamppost. You should be able to count at least two seconds before your car reaches the same point. Remember the two second rule only applies in perfect driving conditions. In rain, ice, snow, or other slippery conditions, you should increase the distance by as much as 10 times.

8. Approaching On-Slips

To help other cars safely join the motorway you should be aware of what is happening as you approach on-slips. If you judge that you will be passing the slip road close to the same point when cars will be joining the motorway, follow the tips above about overtaking to move into the right hand lane. This will leave the left hand lane clear for cars to join.

9. Take Breaks

Motorway driving can get monotonous so it is easy to start feeling drowsy. Take regular breaks at motorway services, or leave the motorway if none are available.

10. Breaking Down

If you are able to safely exit the motorway using a slip road you should do this. Otherwise, pull into the hard shoulder. Put on your hazard lights immediately. If you have passengers in the car they should exit the vehicle from the passenger-side doors and move over the fence and up the grass bank, as far away from the traffic as possible. You then need to call for help. Use your mobile if you can, or walk to one of the free motorway phones, which are signposted.

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