How hot are you on motorway etiquette?


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Are you the sort of motorist who hogs the fast lane, tailgates the car in front or ‘undertakes’ those annoying middle-lane crawlers?

Or are you one of those drivers who gets hot under the collar about those who do?

There are few things that get us worked up quite like those who exhibit bad manners when behind the wheel, and the UK’s motorway network provides a daily battleground for motorists of varying sensibilities.

But is it ever acceptable to undertake?

And are you fully justified in tailgating someone who treats the fast lane like it’s a bus lane?

The latest MoneySuperMarket poll gathered the opinions of over 4,300 customers and found that opinion was pretty much split down the middle when it came to the thorny subject of undertaking.

Just over half (50.9%) of those polled are of the opinion that it’s never acceptable to undertake, the vast majority (48.8%) consider it dangerous while just 2.1% consider it to be a case of bad manners.

On the other hand, 47% think that it is sometimes OK to undertake, with 33.1% suggesting that it’s fine if you’re careful and observant, while 13.9% say that it’s acceptable as if the other cars are in a lane they shouldn’t be in.

For the record, the remaining 2.1% didn’t know.

To find out who’s right we need to turn to rule 268 of the UK Highway Code, which states:

“Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right. Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake.”

This basically means that it’s only acceptable to undertake if the traffic in the right hand lane is naturally going slower. Weaving in and out of the left and right hands lanes is a definite no-no and, although not technically an offence, anyone found doing this could be charged with careless or inconsiderate driving.

This is a CD-code offence which comes with between three and nine penalty points which can stay on your licence for between four and eleven years, depending upon the severity of the offence.

Here’s a look at some of the more irritating motorway indiscretions…

Middle of the road

It’s easy to assume the middle lane of the motorway is the one that causes most of the problems when it comes to motorway etiquette – middle-lane crawlers are a major cause of exasperation for drivers all over the land.

However, I’d suggest it’s the so called ‘fast-lane’ that causes the confusion – put motorists on a dual carriageway and they’ll happily sit in the left hand lane, only moving into the second lane when overtaking.

Throw a third lane into the equation and the left lane is suddenly seen as ‘the slow lane’, only there for HGVs and caravans.

This means that those who observe the correct rules of the road – the left lane is for driving in, the others for overtaking -  are then faced with the dilemma of undertaking or being thrown to the mercy of those who live life in the fast lane, speaking of which…

Life in the fast lane

If you’ve ever found yourself in the motorways’ outermost overtaking lane doing anything remotely adjacent to the national speed limit, there’s a good chance you’ll have found yourself uncomfortably close to a raging alpha male (or female) motorist who’ll stay just a few feet behind you until you accept your inferiority and move into the middle lane.

Before then moving into the left-hand lane, obviously.

Unlike undertaking though, there is no room for interpretation when it comes to tailgating: it’s dangerous because it massively reduces the time motorists have to react to a change in speed and can easily lead to a serious accident involving multiple vehicles.

And, along with middle lane hogging, it’s now a behaviour that may soon be punished with £100 fixed penalty fine and three penalty points.

Sadly, it seems not risking an accident and simply being considerate of other drivers is not sufficient for some motorists.

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