Motorways can be daunting for L-platers with fast speeds, heavy traffic and special regulations. A different skill set is required to coast the motorway which involves joining, exiting and actually driving on the motorway.
Joining the Motorway
- Speed up on the Slip Road
Accelerate along the slip road to mirror the speed of the vehicles already on the motorway.
- Get some space
Most drivers on the motorway will either take their foot off the accelerator or move into the right lane so you have more space. If they don’t, be prepared to slow down a little if necessary and speed up when that driver passes. The traffic already in the motorway has the priority.
- Use your runway
Use as much of the slip road as you can to get a large runway.
- Glide into a safe gap
Ensure you use your signal, mirror and shoulder check to merge into the flowing traffic when there is a suitable gap.
On the Motorway – When Driving
If the conditions are good, stick to the speed limit. However, don’t pass the maximum allowed speed limit of L-platers and P-platers.
Motorways require constant 360 degree observation. You need to be able to gauge the distance and speed of the vehicles around you at all times. At such high speeds, you have less reaction time and thus need to look further ahead.
- Lane discipline
You should be driving on the left hand lane unless you need to overtake.
- Safe Gaps
Ensure there’s a large gap between you and the car in front of you. It’s important to note that it takes longer to stop on a motorway as you’re travelling at a much higher speed.
- Variable Speed Limits
It is possible that you will need to change your speed quite a few times when driving on a motorway – particularly if you’re going a long distance. Keep an eye out for variable speed limit signs.
- Avoid Lane Hogging
Don’t hog a lane, especially a middle or right lane (even if you’re going the speed limit). You risk holding up traffic and the drivers behind you will become frustrated. Try to avoid weaving in and out of lanes as that increases the risk of accidents.
- Don’t Rubberneck
Rubbernecking is quite common in NSW so try to avoid it. This is where cars slow down to stare at accidents on the motorway and cause congestion.
On the Motorway – When Overtaking
There are three factors to consider when overtaking on a motorway: blind spots, tailgaters and trucks or other heavy vehicles.
- Blind Spots
Never EVER forget to check your blind spot when you’re overtaking on the motorway. Be extra vigilant on a three lane road as there’s a risk that a vehicle from the left and right lanes merge into the middle lane simultaneously.
If someone is tailgating you, move into the left lane when there’s a suitable gap. Don’t panic and rush.
- Trucks or other heavy vehicles
If there’s a truck travelling on the motorway, try not to drive right next to or behind it as they block your vision, have a larger blind spot and can spit out rocks. This can result in a chipped or cracked windscreen.
Leaving the Motorway
- Watch your exit
There are many signs giving you advanced warnings of 2km and 1km.
- Avoid swooping
When you get close, signal in advance and move into the left lane. Don’t swoop in at the last second.
- Remain at your current speed
Do NOT slow down while still on the motorway as that will hinder the flow of traffic.
- Slow down on the slip road
When you merge onto the slip road, slow down to the speed limit of the exit. If you’ve travelled a long distance, you’ve probably become accustomed to the high speed, so keep an eye on your speedo.
- Concentration and endurance
Driving on a motorway requires constant focus. If you find it difficult to concentrate at high speeds for long periods of time, perhaps you can stick to shorter motorway trips until you develop your stamina.
Make sure you have enough petrol for the route. Unlike ordinary roads, motorways do not usually have petrol stations on them.
- Do as you want others to do
When you approach a junction, try to move into the middle or right lanes in order to give cars that are attempting to join the motorway space to do so.
- It’s a whole other world out there
Motorways aren’t ordinary roads with turns, roundabouts and traffic lights. Once you’re on, there’s no stopping until you reach your exit.