Motorway Month


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Some of us like driving on the motorway, some find it daunting, and for others it's boring. That's why we've put together a campaign of advice.

Whether you're a seasoned driver or you've just passed your test, follow our tips to make sure your holiday doesn't start with a crash, a breakdown or a missed flight. Enjoy the drive.

Caravan safety

Figures from the Highways Agency show that between April and June 2013 alone, there have been 1,408 towing incidents on the UK’s roads.
This short safety animation from the Highways Agency is for casual caravan users who might be less familiar with towing - tow safely this summer.

With many people driving to the airport and to their holiday destinations in the coming weeks, the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists), the RAC and the Highways Agency are advising on how not to become one of the unlucky ones who sacrifices time on the beach for time broken down. Check out our driving tips below:

> Towing safely

Figures from the Highways Agency show that between April and June 2013 alone, there have been 1,408 towing incidents on the UK’s roads.

The Highways Agency has warned that towing incidents are often caused by overloading the caravan or trailer, a mismatch with the towing vehicle, tyres which have burst because they have not been checked or replaced where needed, and poor towing technique from drivers such as excessive speed.

Advice for successfully towing another vehicle:

- Watch the weight of the towed vehicle – this should not exceed 85 per cent of the car’s kerb weight. Excess weight will cause instability.

- Check the unit you are towing is secure before pulling away, and check again after a short distance. Look for anything loose, missing or broken.

- Check that your extra rear lights are all connected and fully functional. As well as additional lights, you will also need an illuminated number plate at the rear of the unit.

- Check the pressure of all tyres before you set off, bearing in mind those of the towed unit as well as your own vehicle.

- Stopping distances and spacing between you and other vehicles should be increased, allowing for the extra weight you are carrying. You should also allocate more time to overtaking, to position yourself for turns, parking, pulling into traffic streams, changing lanes and joining and leaving motorways.

- Use your mirrors frequently - the fact you have lost the use of your rear view mirror makes extended door mirrors very useful. Extended mirrors are not a legal requirement, but drivers must to be able to see traffic behind them, so the use of mirrors is encouraged for caravans and anything but a small trailer.

- Be aware that reduced speed limits usually apply when towing vehicles, and show courtesy to vehicles following you by allowing them to pass.

> Tyre safety

Keep your tyres in check to help you stay safe on motorways – that is the message today from the Institute of Advanced Motorists after a total of 3,852 tyre-related incidents were reported on England’s motorways between April and the end of June 2013 – an average of 1,284 per month.

Many motorists will often put off tyre repairs to save on costs. But it is actually cheaper to replace worn or damaged tyres where necessary, rather than waiting to face a burst tyre and having to be towed off the motorway.

P – Performance. You can monitor the state of your tyres through observation of the performance of your vehicle; grip, handling and fuel economy will all be improved with correct tyre care.

A – Air pressure. It is essential that you check your tyre pressures on a regular basis for maximum performance. Low tyre pressure can cause increased fuel consumption as well as making them more susceptible to damage.

C – Condition. Inspect tyres for any cuts, bulges, uneven wear or objects embedded in the tread.

T – Tread depth. Monitoring your tyres’ tread is essential for safety, particularly on wet roads. Check that your tread depth is not below the legal minimum of 1.6mm, although it is worth considering getting them replaced if they are below 3mm.

Incidents contribute to delays which cost the economy billions of pounds each year. According to the Highways Agency’s national satisfaction survey, carried out between April 2012 and the end of March 2013, only 53% of respondents say they regularly check their tyre pressure.

If you are carrying heavy loads, you will need to increase the air pressure in your car tyres to compensate. You can find the correct tyre pressures for heavy loads in your car’s handbook. But remember to readjust your tyre pressures when you start to using your car normally again.

> Tailgating and the middle lane

All drivers are looking to get to their destination without delay – but following too close to other vehicles on the motorway is not the way to speed up your arrival. In fact, tailgating is far more likely to lead to a collision. Always try to maintain a two second gap between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.

If you are being tailgated, there are steps you can take to help prevent their bad behaviour becoming your burden: try not to react by accelerating, braking or swerving suddenly - this will reduce your car control and probably annoy the other driver. Remain calm and check your mirrors frequently to monitor the situation around you.

When driving on the motorway in the UK, you should consider the left hand lane your 'base'. There are no set speeds for each lane, so on an empty motorway, you should always drive on the left, using the other lanes for overtaking slower vehicles. Many motorists stick to the middle-ground of lane two to minimise their lane changes, but this is not best practice and could irritate other drivers.

In 2012 there were 33,303 reported road collisions on the Highways Agency network, causing lane closures, significant costs and delays for thousands of road users.

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