Driving on the highway can be unnerving, especially if you are a beginner. There are just too many rules governing those intimidating roads with speeding traffic. That is why most learners stick to local roads until they feel confident enough to take on a highway.
It’s difficult but it is not impossible though. As you must have noticed, the more you drive around, the more confident you feel. Driving is a learned skill and as with most learned skills: practice makes a man perfect.
If you have gained enough experience on the local roads and you feel ready to pick up your car keys and hit the highway, you should venture onto the motorway by all means.
However, it is important that you take time out to prepare for your drive beforehand. Knowing prerequisites and basic highway rules will go a long way in making or breaking your first highway experience.
First things first. Before you set off for your drive, make sure you have the following documents on you:
- Your Driver’s License
- Your ID Card
- A European Accident Statement Obtained from Your Car Insurance Brokers
- Accident and Breakdown Insurance
- Certificate of Insurance from Your Insurer or Car Insurance Broker
*Remember, motor insurance and breakdown cover is compulsory for driving on UK roads. The legal minimum is third party insurance but your car insurance broker can help you find cheap car insurance packages for young drivers.
Tips for Driving On the Highway for The First Time:
Now that you have your legal documents in the glove compartment, you’re all set to start driving on the motorway. Here are 9 tips for driving on the highway for the first time:
- Pick The Right Time
If this is your first experience driving on the highway, we highly recommend you choose the right time and place for it. Do not driving on busy highways and pick a time when there are less vehicles on the highway.
Avoid going for a spin during the rush hours. Rush hours in the UK are usually from 7 am – 10 am when people are going to work and school and 4 pm – 7 pm in the evening when commuters are returning from their daily engagements.
You are just starting out so pick the optimal conditions for your drive. Drive during the day. Rain, fog and snow can decrease visibility significantly so try to drive on a clear, bright and sunny day.
- Joining the Highway
The first step is to join the highway. When you are joining a highway or a motorway, you should award priority to vehicles that are already present there. Some slip roads on the highway double as left hand lane of the highway, so if that is the case, stick to your lane until you can join.
Before joining or leaving the highway, familiarise yourself with its basic layout and know your exits. The mirrors are also extremely important so before switching lanes, joining or leaving the highway, take a glance at your rearview mirror, blind spot and side mirrors to assess the flow of traffic.
- Drive on The Left
Beginners should always stick to lane 1 which is the left-most lane on a highway. Lane 1 is specifically for vehicles that are driving normally whereas the other lanes are used for overtaking or heavy vehicles.
Usually highways have 3 lanes:
Lane 1: Normal Driving Lane
Lane 2: Used for Overtaking
Lane 3: Used for Overtaking
As a learner, you should stick to Lane 1 unless you need to overtake. In some places, there are highways with more than 3 lanes but the rule remains the same; stay on the furthest left lane.
Use the “mirror – signal – maneuver” procedure if you need to overtake and keep a safe distance from heavier traffic. Avoid using outside or the middle lane while driving.
- Keep Your Headlights On
Visibility is super important. If you are just starting out, avoid being on a highway during the night but if you have to be, flick on your headlights and use them to improve visibility.
Some manuals recommend that beginners keep their headlights on even when driving during the day so they can look ahead clearly.
- Avoid Undertaking
While the Highway Code 268 permits undertaking on exceptional occasions, it generally discourages it. The only time you can undertake is if someone is signaling to turn right or if the left lane is moving faster than the right lane.
Undertaking is the practice of moving to the left of a slow moving vehicle in order to cross it. Under the lane etiquette, undertaking carelessly can be considered careless or dangerous driving. So as a new driver on the highway, you should avoid recklessly undertaking vehicles to remain safe.
- Remain Alert
The Highway Code cannot stress on this point enough, especially if you are a young driver. That is because various studies found that drivers under the age of 20 have the largest proportion of distraction-related vehicle crashes.
As a new driver, you should be extremely vigilant and cautious. Driving is all about avoiding distractions and focusing on the road.
The Highway Code reminds us to steer away from the following distractions while driving:
- Using mobile phone
- Playing loud music
- Trying to navigate using GPS/ maps while driving
- Tuning a radio or playing a cassette
- Eating and Drinking
- Talking to other passengers or drivers
- Don’t Park on Yellow Zig Zags
You must have learned in the driving school that the yellow zig zags you see on roads are there for a reason; they indicate that there is a school, a hospital or a fire station.
No matter how desperate you are to find the right parking spot, refrain from parking or waiting on the yellow zig zags. Not only would that guarantee your safety but that of everyone around you.
- Use Blinkers
Young drivers must make ample use of blinkers because it is only through them that you can communicate with other drivers on the highway. Use your blinkers, even if you think others know what you are doing – it does not hurt to be safe.
- Mind the Speed Limit
Lastly, we are back to the basics. As a new driver, you should stick to the speed limit religiously because it can make all the difference. For most highways in the UK, the speed limit is 70 mph but keep an eye out for exceptions to this general rule.
You might see signs indicating an alternative speed limit in certain situations, for instance road repair work etc. Going past the speed limit is illegal and can earn you a ticket since there are speed cameras installed all over the UK highway. Moreover, it is pretty important for your own safety.