Put safety first on motorway journeys

Posted on January 26th, 2015 by GEM Motoring Assist

Breakdown cover specialist GEM Motoring Assist is encouraging drivers to put safety first on motorway journeys. The advice follows Saturday’s crash on the M4 in south Wales which left 28 people injured.

GEM chief executive David Williams MBE offered some reassurance for drivers: “Motorways may be the fastest roads we use, but they are statistically also the safest; and there are fewer collisions on motorways than on other roads,” he said.

“However, the high speeds used on motorways mean that when there is a crash, it is likely to be more serious. That’s why on average around one in 50 motorway collisions is fatal, compared with one in 70 on all other roads1.”

The risks are greatest on motorways in the following situations:
• When there is insufficient time and space between vehicles travelling at high speed.
• When drivers are avoidably distracted – often by using a mobile phone, re-setting the satnav or attempting to eat and drink at the wheel.
• As a result of poor lane discipline – for example, driving in the middle lane when the left hand lane is empty, or from changing lanes without proper observations or signalling.
• When traffic is heavy and motorway speeds are constantly varying, largely due to the frustration experienced by some drivers.
• When traffic is light and there is little or nothing to engage the attention of a driver on a long journey. It’s at these times that alertness can drop and concentration can dip, making it easy to miss a developing hazard.
• Around junctions, when drivers are leaving or joining the motorway. Too often drivers make last-minute decisions, and end up cutting across lanes of traffic to get off the motorway or into the correct lane if the carriageway is about to split. Busy urban stretches of motorway are particularly risky, as there are often several junctions and intersections across short distances.

David Williams added: “By acknowledging these risks, you are taking a big step toward making a motorway journey safer.”

GEM has compiled 10 tips for safer motorway driving:
1. Plan your journey so you know when to join and leave the motorway. You’re far less likely to be taken by surprise when it comes to choosing the correct lane at junctions and intersections.
2. Choose a safe speed and use the left hand lane of the motorway unless you are overtaking.
3. Check your following distance by the ‘two second rule’. Watch the vehicle in front go past a signpost, under a bridge or past some other reference point.
4. Then speak out: “Only a fool breaks the two second rule.” If you pass the same point before you have finished the sentence, then you are too close.
5. Double your following distance in wet weather.
6. Scan the road a long way ahead so that you have early sight of developing hazards.
7. Make regular mirror checks. If you observe a fast-approaching vehicle, then take steps to move out of its way.
8. Before changing lanes, check your mirrors and blind spots, and indicate your intention to move either left or right. Only commence the manoeuvre when you know you can complete it safely.
9. Avoid any sort of distraction. No mobile phone, no interfering with stereo or satnav, no eating or drinking. Give 100% of your attention to driving.
10. If you miss your motorway exit, don’t make last-minute risky manoeuvres to leave the motorway. Continue to the next junction and turn around, or follow the revised satnav instructions.
1 Source: Brake Road Safety Charity