Guide to driving on the motorways in the UK

Added: 05 March 2020

What is a Motorway?

Whether you’re new to driving or have been on the road for years, our guide to driving on the motorways in the UK will make sure you always keep things safe and legal.

What is a motorway?

A motorway is the most major type of road in the UK. It usually has several lanes and is built for fast moving traffic that will be travelling long distances. You can tell if a road is a motorway because its name will begin with the letter “M”. For example, the M25 ring road around London, the M20 across Kent and the M1, which connects London to Leeds, are all examples of motorways in the UK.

Who can use motorways?

Who can use Motorways

Motorways can only be used by motorised vehicles, such as cars, motorbikes and lorries. Pedestrians, cyclists and learner drivers are not allowed on any motorways, which means only those with a valid driving licence can use them.

Using motorway lanes

UK Law for the Motorway

The UK law states that drivers should always remain in the left lane of the motorway, except for when they are overtaking. You may hear people talk about a “fast lane” but this is incorrect. The two right hand lands are not for cars driving faster, but for cars that overtake the vehicles in the left lane(s). 

When you are overtaking another vehicle on a motorway, you should always check to make sure the lane you are moving into is clear. Don’t forget to check your blind spot, too! Once you’ve overtaken, you should move back into the left lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Failure to follow this rule may not seem serious, but it could land you a £100 fine and three points on your licence.

Motorways can be entered and exited via slip roads. Exits will be clearly marked as you drive along the motorway and you will need to be in the left lane to exit. Make sure you give yourself enough time to move over to the left lane if needed.

Speed limits on UK motorways

Speed limit on the motorway

The speed limit on UK motorways is generally 70 mph. However, there may be some times when this isn’t the case. An exception is larger vehicles, such as good vehicles exceeding 7.5 tonnes or any vehicle towing another vehicle, which are restricted to a maximum of 60 mph on motorways.

From time to time, you may see temporary speed restrictions in place on the motorway. These will be shown either above or below the road, and may differ from lane to lane. If you see a speed limit in red, it is the law that you must drive below that speed. If it is in a flashing amber circle, it is an advised speed limit, rather than a mandatory limit. It’s important to understand these differences before driving on the motorway.

While there is no minimum speed limit on UK motorways, driving too slowly can also be considered dangerous and lead to you being stopped by the police. 

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