Fleet News

Special feature: road safety

IT would seem the Government is as frustrated as millions of drivers about middle lane-hoggers and recently launched a pilot scheme to see if it can change the habit that is the number one source of irritation for Britain’s motorists.

Two new safety messages have been piloted on selected motorway message signs on the M1, M6, M18 and M62 urging motorway drivers to ‘Keep Left Unless Overtaking’ and ‘Don’t Hog the Middle Lane’.

The Highways Agency claims it is testing driver reaction to the messages as part of its campaign to reduce accidents on Britain’s motorways. Experts also believe that middle lane hoggers can cause congestion and make hundreds of miles of motorway lanes unusable, as other drivers try to negotiate their way round them.

The messages are designed to remind drivers to safely move back into the left lane after overtaking, in accordance with Highway Code rule 238.

Motorway signs in Cheshire, Lancashire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Leicestershire and South Yorkshire were used in the campaign.

David Jamieson, the Minister for Roads, said: ‘We are committed to tackling congestion and making our roads safer. Poor lane discipline causes frustration to drivers and can disrupt the flow of traffic.

‘We have all seen people on the motorway sitting in the wrong lane and experienced the inconvenience and congestion it causes. Just sticking to the simple rule of staying left unless overtaking could bring real benefits to all road users.’

Ginny Clarke, the agency’s chief highways engineer, added: ‘We have chosen the messages ‘Keep Left Unless Overtaking’ and ‘Don’t Hog the Middle Lane’ to remind drivers of the safe driving advice in the Highway Code.

‘We want drivers to think about how they are using motorway lanes. Are they taking care when overtaking, signalling in good time and keeping a safe distance between their vehicle and others? Or are they spending too long in the middle or outside lanes, and causing frustration to other drivers when they could safely return to an inside lane?’

Section 238 of the Highway Code advises motorway drivers to keep in a left-hand lane unless they are overtaking slower-moving vehicles. Drivers are told to return to the left hand lane after completing the overtaking manoeuvre or if they are holding up traffic behind them.

The results of the week-long trial will be studied by the Highways Agency, and it will consider how the messages such as ‘Keep Left Unless Overtaking’ and ‘Don’t Hog the Middle Lane’ can be used most effectively on its road network to change the habit.

In July, researchers conducted a nationwide survey of 15,000 vehicles measuring tailgating and lane discipline. From the survey, the RAC Foundation estimated that drivers with poor lane discipline – middle-lane hogs and outside lane-blockers – are wasting up to one-third of motorway capacity in peak periods, equating to 700 miles lost or the equivalent of the distance from Aberdeen to Penzance.

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said: ‘The middle-lane hog and outside lane-blocker are selfish drivers who are wasting one-third of our motorway capacity. If we can encourage these drivers to practice better lane discipline it would be equivalent to adding 700 miles of new motorway capacity.

‘Poor lane discipline wastes the scarce resource of road capacity, encourages road rage and leads to dangerous tailgating.

‘It takes more than 10 years to build an extra motorway lane. We could in effect add an extra 700 miles of motorway overnight if motorists improved their lane discipline. ‘We would like to see more traffic police on motorways pulling drivers over for hogging the middle lane. In the late 50s and early 60s ‘courtesy cops’ advised drivers how to use the lanes on the new dual carriageways and motorways. Perhaps we need some courtesy cops on the motorways today.’

  • What do you think about lane discipline of Britain’s motorways? Would legalising undertaking solve the problem? Email us at fleetnews@emap.co.uk

    What the Highway Code says

    LANE discipline: Section 238 of the Highway Code advises drivers: ‘You should drive in the left-hand lane if the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower moving vehicles it may be safer to remain in the centre or outer lanes until the manoeuvre is completed rather than continually changing lanes.
    ‘Return to the left-hand lane once you have overtaken all the vehicles or if you are delaying traffic behind you. Slow moving or speed restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking. You must not drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by signs.

    Do your drivers hog the outside lanes?

    Fleet News’ researchers monitored a section of the A1, watching and counting traffic over a half-hour period. We saw more than 150 vehicles driving in an outer lane when it was perfectly safe to pull over to the left – a scene replicated on thousands of motorway miles throughout the country, causing congestion and stress

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