AA reveals top five reasons for near misses on motorways

The AA is calling on motorists to respect the rules of the road, stay alert and have a full tank of fuel when taking to the motorways for their return journeys this bank holiday Monday.  To highlight the importance of obeying driving rules in particular, the motor insurance provider has released findings on the main causes of near misses on Irish motorways.

Topping the list is failure to signal intent to change lanes.  This is followed very closely by vehicles suddenly changing lanes in order to exit the motorway.  Also in the top five according to AA Motor Insurance who surveyed over 10,000 drivers who have had a  close call on a motorway are; tailgating, being undertaken and having to negotiate an insufficient gap in cars when joining from a slip road. 

17% of those polled by AA Motor Insurance also indicated that their own fatigue had had a part to play in a near miss incident.  “It’s so important not to ignore fatigue when driving, you risk going into a micro sleep, which is a brief loss of consciousness.”  Says Conor Faughnan, Director of Policy AA Ireland.  “Your ability to concentrate also wanes.   A prime example of this was shared with us by one of our poll respondents.  The person in questions admitted to unintentionally tailgating due to fatigue and almost crashing as a result.”

With the exception of an unexpected hazard on the motorway, AA Motor Insurance reports that all other incidents relate to driver error or a disregard for or lack of knowledge of the rules of the road governing motorways.

“Statistically motorways are the safest roads we have. However they have specific safety rules with very good reason.  When a collision does occur it can be catastrophic.  Everyone has a responsibility to know and obey those rules.” Says Faughnan.  “One driver told us he had a near miss when undertaking another driver, a maneuver he said he did not know was illegal at the time.   A lucky escape from a collision he would have been completely liable for.”

An AA guide on ‘Safe Motorway Driving’ is available to at www.theaa.ie

Fig. 1 Top reasons motorist have near misses/close calls on motorways (Based on 10,553 responses)

Failure by another driver to signal his/her intent to change lanes 63.9%
A vehicle in front suddenly changing lanes to exit the motorway 62.2%
Another driver ‘tailgating’ your vehicle 55.4%
Undertaking by another vehicle 28.4%
An insufficient gap in traffic when joining from a slip road 25.4%
Poor visibility 25.1%
An unexpected hazard on the motorway 23.9%
Your own fatigue 17.0%
Another driver driving against the flow of traffic 7.6%
Your own failure to signal your intent to change lanes 5.1%
Your own ‘tailgating’ of another vehicle 3.6%
Your own undertaking of another vehicle 3.6%





  1. Useful information – thank you

    It never ceases to amaze me how fast people drive on the motorway when it is raining! Most drivers do nt realise how difficult it is to stop a vehicle at high speed on a wet road.

  2. I believe there needs to be a tv advertising campaign explaining how to safely move from slip road onto motorway lane. I have followed people down a slip road travelling at no more than 60kph, trying to slot into traffic at 110kph.

    I have also seen cars pulling off the hard shoulder at probably less than 60kph into a motorway lane; do they not even think of trying to build up their speed to that prevailing on the motorway? Very frightening!

    Perhaps I’m lucky, but I lived in the UK for 10 years where these concepts seem to be 2nd nature, but am now home 40 years, and my mind still can’t understand some of the things drivers do on the motorways. I’m not perfect, still capable of making mistakes, but I think I realise when I have made one.

    Incidentally, something I saw a few weeks ago on the Naas Road. Coming from Naas at 2.30am, almost nothing on the road that time of morning, I was in the left hand lane at 100kph, I passed a car which was in the overtaking lane doing not more than 70 kph. Technically I probably broke the law, but what do you do, bearing in mind the number of lanes on that road. The driver of the other car was probably oblivious to the situation

  3. Hello,

    Left hand indicator means you are turning left (usually) – parked on a motorway means nothing – or indeed parked on any hard shoulder
    means nothing!

    Very few drivers have a clue of motorway rules.

    I saw a bus stopping on M7 in Kildare to let off a soldier to head across the fileds??
    I saw a Tesco truck stopped at the end of the entry slip to the M7.
    I saw a family stopped on the M7 to let kids play on the embankment.

    Fog lamps – does anybody know they are not focused and blind other drivers.

    There should be an ad campaign by Government on the above.

    The new motorways have numbered pegs in the margins to give location for breakdowns etc.
    The old ones should be updated to same.


    Alec. Quinn

  4. Just witnessed a car in front of me trying to join a motorway but the truck driving along side wouldn’t let him out nor the car behind, almost caused an accident. Its not surprising that people end up misjudging the gap in traffic when they are forced to push themselves out. A little bit more courtesy can go a long way when it comes to safety.

  5. Can somebody pleats explained to me how undertaking is so dangerous on motorways. I’m not talking about dangerous undertaking combined with tailgating and a sudden burst of excelleration into left hand lane.

  6. Most drivers in busy motorway driving don’t keep to the two second rule. In driving lane when car merging it can be nerve wreaking for some drivers, who are trying to merge between two cars, as some merging lanes can be very short. I spoke to a road safety officer in Florida about this and he told me that if a car is merging from my right and ahead of me, I MUST merge to that car. Why do we not have that rule here and bring back the old Please Merge in Turn sign, but change the “Please” to “MUST” This sign should also be used where two lanes merge into a bottle neck.

  7. What are the dangergers of undertaking? If a motorist is being undertaken by another, then he is in the wrong by lane hogging. If it’s ok to undertake while in a left only lane, then what’s the problem?

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