We know that many of you are frustrated by poor driving habits on our motorways – the huge response to our Facebook post about a middle-lane hogger in the UK is proof of that. So, here’s a reminder about how to use motorway lanes correctly…
The maximum speed limit on a motorway is 120km per hour unless:
On the M50, the limit is 100km per hour between J3 M1 and J13 Sandyford, while on the section between the Port Tunnel and the M1 Interchange the limit is 80km per hour.
The limit for vehicles towing a trailer is 80km per hour, for HGVs it’s 90km per hour, and for buses it’s 100km per hour (in all cases, unless a lower limit applies to all vehicles).
You must not enter a motorway if:
Photo adapted from original by David Anstiss
The image above shows the layout of a three-lane motorway.
The basic principle is that you should always drive in the left lane (lane 1) unless you need to overtake a slower vehicle or vehicles, or unless the lane is blocked. Once you have finished overtaking, move from the right lane (lane 2) back into the left lane as soon as it is safe to do so.
On a three-lane motorway, there is an extra overtaking lane (lane 3), but you should still keep left as much as possible. i.e. don’t drive in the right lane if the middle lane (lane 2) is empty, or in the middle lane if the left lane is empty.
You may also need to move out of the left lane at a junction, to make room for vehicles merging from the on ramp. Again, move back into the left lane as soon as it is available.
It’s an offence to drive on the hard shoulder unless in an emergency or if ordered to do so by An Garda Síochána. You could incur penalty points.
Some vehicles are not permitted to use the right lane: HGVs, and any vehicle towing a trailer, horsebox or caravan. An exception is made where there is no other lane available due to an obstruction.
When driving on a motorway, you should be checking your mirrors on a constant basis, as the picture around you will be changing all the time.
Before overtaking or changing lanes, remember ‘mirror, signal, mirror, manoeuvre’. Check your mirrors and your blind spot, then put on your indicator to let drivers behind you know that you wish to move. Move smoothly into the new lane, making sure to leave enough distance from the vehicles in front of and behind you. Remember to turn off your indicator once you have completed the manoeuvre.
Stay out of other drivers’ blind spots, especially large vehicles like trucks.
You should only pass a slower vehicle on its right, unless traffic is moving in slow queues and the traffic queue on your right is travelling more slowly than you are. Passing on the left in normal traffic flow is known as undertaking and can be very dangerous
When changing lanes, you should only move one lane at a time, treating each one as an individual manoeuvre. Never drive straight across a lane to get to the next one.
Always make sure you leave enough distance between your vehicle and the vehicle in front so that you can stop safely. In dry conditions, use the two-second rule – make sure that two seconds have elapsed between the vehicle in front passing a specific point, and your vehicle getting to it. When the road is wet, make sure you are four seconds behind.
On some motorways (for example the M50), there is an extra lane known as the auxiliary lane. It’s separated from the main carriageway by road markings that are closer together than the broken white lines that divide the other lanes and it links the motorway’s off- and on-ramps. It enables traffic to prepare to exit the motorway well in advance of a junction, and it also gives extra room for merging traffic to join the main carriageway.
For more information and advice on motorway driving, see the RSA’s excellent booklet.