Motorway Driving Introduction

Motorways differ from ordinary roads in that they're designed to help traffic travel faster and in greater safety. This puts greater demands on both driver and vehicle.

Motorways are statistically safer than other roads in relation to the number of accidents occurring. However, when they do happen, motorway accidents occur at higher speed and involve more vehicles. As a result, injuries are usually more serious- often with greater loss of life.

Traffic travelling faster means that conditions change more rapidly. You need to be alert and have total concentration.

This section deals with the special skills you need to drive safely on a motorway, and the situations you're likely to meet.

The topics covered

  • Driving on motorways
  • Motorway signs and signals
  • Getting onto a motorway
  • On the motorway
  • Lane discipline
  • Braking
  • Overtaking
  • Leaving a motorway
  • Motorway weather conditions
  • Stopping on motorways
  • Motorways at night
  • Road-works
  • The novice driver

Motorway Driving General Information

  • You must hold a full driving licence for the class of vehicle you're driving. Learner drivers, holding a provisional licence, are now allowed on motorways but only if accompanied by a DVSA Approved Driving Instructor.
  • You should have a thorough knowledge of the sections of The Highway Code dealing with motorways.
  • You need to know and understand motorway warning signs and signals.
  • You need to be fit and alert to drive anywhere, but particularly on motorways. Never use the motorway if you feel tired or unwell.
  • Parking is forbidden except at service areas. If you need rest, you'll sometimes have to travel long distances before an exit or a service area. Remember, it's an offence to stop on the bard shoulder, exit or a slip road, unless in an emergency.


Make sure your vehicle is well ventilated. Use whatever ventilation you can.

If your journey seems monotonous and you feel drowsy, open a window until you reach a service area.

Plan plenty of rest stops, especially at night.

The Vehicle On The Motorway

You must

  • only drive a vehicle which is allowed on a motorway
  • make sure your vehicle is safe and in good working order.

Motorways must not be used by

  • pedestrians
  • cyclists
  • horse riders
  • holders of a provisional car licence (unless accompanied by a DVSA Approved Driving Instructor)
  • holders of a provisional motorcycle licence

In addition the following vehicles must not be used on the motorway

  • motorcycles under 50 cc
  • certain slow-moving vehicles with oversized loads - except with special permission
  • invalid carriages less than 254kg unladen weight
  • agricultural vehicles.

Before you use the motorway

High speeds and long distances increase the risk of mechanical failure.

You should carry out the following checks on your vehicle.

they must be in good condition and with the correct pressure. Follow the guidance given in the owner's handbook which often gives different pressures to be used where the vehicle is loaded.
make sure there are no faults.
Warning lights
make sure each is working correctly
make sure they are clean and correctly positioned.
Windscreen and windows
make sure they are clean. Top up the reservoir for the windscreen washers, and the rear window washer, if your vehicle has one.
Lights and indicators
make sure they are all working correctly.

Also make sure that

  • your brakes can stop you safely
  • your steering is in good order.

For safety, convenience and good vehicle care you should also check the following items.

make sure you have enough fuel to avoid running out between servvice areas.
high speeds may mean your engine uses oil faster. Running out can be dangerous and costly.
higher speeds can mean warmer engine, especially in traffic tailbacks in hot weather.

Make sure your load is secure

Check that everything carried on your vehicle or trailer is safe and secure.

If anything should fall from your vehicle or from another, stop on the hard shoulder and use the emergency telephone to inform the police.

Never try to retrieve it yourself!