Saturday, 24 August 2013

The Curious Case of the Middle Lane

Does anyone else think that the recent increased penalisation of drivers driving in the middle lane of a motorway is very odd - and even, from the point of view of safety, perverse?

Motorways are the safest of our roads with only 5% of accidents occurring on them*, and it's difficult to believe that driving in the middle lane makes them less safe.

Furthermore, moving regularly into the inner lane (when there are three or four lanes) creates a number of potentially dangerous scenarios. The majority of the risk in motorway driving is in changing lanes or failing to spot the slowing of traffic ahead of you.

Assuming you drive at about the official speed limit of 70mph* you are usually travelling close to the speed of others using the middle lane and can stay there safely for long distances. Those going faster use the outside overtaking lane before eventually moving back into the middle lane. Those going more slowly - often lorries - use the inner lane which has an average speed of about 50-60mph.

If you move into the inner lane, you will very soon encounter the slower-moving traffic and have to slow down or move out again to overtake. Quite often you can't move back to the middle lane due to the flow of cars and have to wait for a sometimes inadequate gap to open up, causing frustration and a possibly risky manoeuvre.

Moving to the inner lane continuously after overtaking in the middle lane leads to a more stressful and risky journey as each change of lane contains dangerous moments and requires careful study of the mirrors to ensure that a car or motorcycle isn't closing quickly on the gap you have selected. Looking often in your mirrors mean that you are more likely for a critical second or two to miss the fact that the cars in front of you have suddenly slowed.

I prefer to remain as safe as possible on motorways and use the middle lane unless there is very little traffic. Why should this attract a penalty?

It is even more odd when the manoeuvre that I find most alarming - undertaking (which when I was taught to drive, was treated as 'dangerous') - is no longer sanctioned.

*At a Speed Awareness Course I attended, the instructors quoted the 5% figure for the safely of motorways and also said that the 'usual' speed of cars in the outside lane was 82mph - which they thought perfectly safe, hence the continuing discussion about raising the speed limit to 80mph. 

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