The ABD: How to drive on the motorway

Nigel Humphries’ advice is pretty much how I do it anyway, but you may learn something. And if you do, then great.

The real problem is drivers who neither care nor appreciate that there are things they can, and should, learn about roadcraft.


ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries explains:

“The problem of ‘phantom jams’ on motorways is well known. It takes only one small action to create a ripple effect of braking cars which escalates as it moves back down the line, eventually halting traffic.” 1

Dr Eddie Wilson, author of the report and Andrew Howard, the AA’s road safety spokesman are quoted as recommending drivers travel at 50MPH instead of 70MPH to solve the problem.2 Dr Wilson also advises drivers to “avoid changing lanes” and to “try to stay in the same lane”.3

Nigel Humphries continues:

“This is foolish advice. It positively encourages some of the practices that cause phantom jams such as travelling too slowly for the conditions and hogging the centre or outer lanes causing other drivers to slow or change lanes to pass.

All drivers have a duty to ensure that they are not contributing to congestion or phantom jams and there is much that they can do. We desperately need an education campaign in the UK advising drivers on motorway driving but unfortunately the government has been persuaded by vested interests that expensive technology (variable speed limits) is the only solution to congestion.

Good motorway drivers read the road far ahead, and can see the ripple of stationary traffic coming towards them. If you slow down early and try to avoid stopping, you ‘Kill the ripple’. I’ve succeeded in doing this on my own on the M42 — just think how effective it could be if more drivers were encouraged to behave in this way — yet the ‘experts’ trotted out to discuss the Bristol report failed to mention this obvious point.”

The ABD offers the following additional advice to drivers to prevent phantom jams:

  1. Maintain good lane discipline. If you are not overtaking move to the leftmost lane. If you are blocking an outer lane other drivers have to either slow down or change lane to pass you.
  2. Try to avoid braking by keeping a safe distance. If the car in front brakes this gives you time to just ease off a little and avoid a ripple effect. It is quite possible to ‘iron out’ ripples this way.
  3. When leaving the motorway try not to slow down until you are in the slip road. This avoids disturbing traffic flow.
  4. When entering the motorway accelerate to the speed of traffic. Never enter at a speed slower than traffic in lane one. It causes braking and needless lane changing.
  5. Don’t drive unnecessarily slowly. Trucks are electronically governed to 56MPH. If you travel slower than this speed you will create congestion as they move out to pass you. If you don’t feel comfortable driving above 50MPH then don’t use the motorway.
  6. Plan lane changes to cause no disruption to traffic flow. When overtaking accelerate briskly to match speed of traffic in the lane you are moving into. When moving back find a gap large enough that you can slot into without braking.
  7. Remember it takes just one driver to block a motorway. Don’t be that driver. Think about the effect of your actions on traffic behind you. Ask yourself if other drivers are having to alter course or slow down because of your position or speed.

By following the above advice drivers can help to ensure that the road space we have is used to maximum efficiency. This helps safety, saves fuel for all and cuts pollution. Whilst we need more motorway capacity much could be done with education to increase efficiency. This should be a priority rather than expensive and ineffective variable speed limits which make a poor attempt at ironing out ripples after they are already well established. It is notable that Paul Clark, the Road Safety Minister recently become the first serving Department for Transport Minister to take a driving assessment with the Institute of Advanced Motorists (though regrettably not the full IAM test). Apparently he found their tips on using mirrors and maintaining lane discipline of the most use. 4


1. You Tube — Shockwave traffic jams recreated for first time
2. Daily Mail
3. BBC One Show 2nd April (20 mins in) [link will expire]
4. IAM — Road Safety minister takes IAM Drive Check



About Al Jahom
Anti-social malcontent, misanthrope and miserable git.

9 Responses to The ABD: How to drive on the motorway

  1. patently says:

    I’d second A-J’s approval of the suggestions, and can confirm that they work.

    Odd that HMG likes shiny expensive dictatorial IT-based solutions backed up with prosecutions and penalties when a little common sense and independent thinking would work just as well, isn’t it…?

  2. George says:

    Legalise undertaking for the motorways, I often sit in the second lane at the bottom of the M1, you know the very expensive road widening project recently finished around Luton, guaranteed I will sit in this lane doing 80/90 undertaking hundreds of cars in the 3rd and 4th lane.

    • Al Jahom says:

      As I understand it, it’s not illegal per sé – only if how you do it is seen to be dangerous, reckles or careless do you have a problem.

      I’ve seen a letter from DVLA to this effect.

  3. Jonathan says:

    One of my pet peeves is middle-lane drivers, you see these fuckwits driving for miles and miles in the centre lane when they’re not overtaking. If people just exercised some lane discipline we could eliminate many hold-ups.
    As for overtaking on the inside, if you’re in lane 1 doing 70, and lane 3 is travelling at 50, I can’t see the problem. Many’s the time I’ve been in the inside lane with nothing in front for half a mile, with the outside lane nose to tail doing 40 or 50.

  4. The man with many chins says:

    I would submit that if you are not comfortable driving at 50 mph as per 5) then you should be using the bus or train. My bike is still in first gear at 50 mph lol, and the bm is normally in second.

  5. Peter MacFarlane says:

    All good points.

    But aren’t they what everyone’s dad teaches them when they start driving?

    Or do “professional” driving instructors have some automotive equivalent of the “whole word method”, which sounds great in their training schools but doesn’t actually work?

    Just wondering.

    • Al Jahom says:

      It’s often said, by IAM types, that passing your test is when you begin learning to drive, and the process never ends.

      Many people lack that autodidactic quality or drive.

      That and the driving test doesn’t include motorways at all and hardly ever features high-speed dual carriageways.

  6. DerekP says:

    Dr Eddie Wilson, author of the report and Andrew Howard, the AA’s road safety spokesman are quoted as…

    … essentially wanting more phantom jams.

    Influence, publicity, money involved in any way? Is this more policy-based evidence?

    ZaNuLabour have been importing something over half-a-million immigrants each year; any guesses how this will effect
    a – the overall standard of driving,
    b – the strain on our travel infrastructure,
    c – the votes cast for ZaNuLabour?

    Which of these considerations do you think was important to our government?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: