I was prepared for middle-lane hoggers, tail-gaters, speeders, and huge amounts of commuters all trying to switch lanes into gaps between cars that were simply not big enough.
What I found was free-flowing traffic (admittedly large volumes of it), travelling at sensible speeds, and with good gaps between them. Despite the large amount of traffic, I reached my destination much earlier than I expected.
I even found drivers using the services to take a break, walk around a bit, have some refreshments, and then continue driving. Typically this break was for about 20 minutes.
I was beginning to think that there had been a massive change in driver attitudes about motorway driving... could everyone have seen the light, understood the risks, and started driving sensibly?
On the way back from London, on a Friday evening (probably the worst commuting time of the week), my Satellite Navigation system showed that the M25 was virtually stationary from junction 9 to 16.
“Here we go; this is where the ‘fun’ will start!”
No, not a bit of it, well, maybe a tiny bit of it. People were patient, considerate to others. Yes, of course there were a few vehicles cutting across lanes through gaps that were a bit ‘cosy’. On the whole, the traffic stayed safe, and moving, slowly, but moving nonetheless. The variable speed limits were clearly visible on the gantries overhead, and it allowed the traffic to keep moving at a steady, but slow, pace.
As the skies got darker, they also got wetter. Dreading the worst, I prepared myself for people driving too close in the new conditions, not adjusting speed or spaces as was needed. Wrong again! Speeds slowed (a bit), gaps increased (a bit), headlights came on, vehicles changed lanes or speeds
What has happened to the reputation of Mad Motorway Motorists? Where
have they gone?
The answer is that I couldn’t find (many of) them. Drivers seem to be recognising the futility of rushing into non-existent gaps at reckless speeds. They seem to be much more relaxed and considerate to others. The vast majority of them are happy to indicate their intentions to others before they change speed or direction. Most of them are happy to reduce their speed to increase a
gap so someone else can use it. Most of them are willing to change lanes early, to create a gap for others to be able to do what they are indicating.
Have the motorways become safe places at last? I think the answer (based on that one trip to and from London) is that they have become lass dangerous than before.
Unfortunately, during the 308 mile trip, I still passed six different “incidents”. They had all made it to the hard shoulder. Four of them involved two vehicles. These all involved large dents and damage to the front of one vehicle, and damage to the rear of the other. My presumption is that cars were following each other too close for the speed they were doing, and the rear vehicles drove into the back of the vehicles in front. It seems that not everyone was thinking about stopping distances and ‘safety bubbles’.
One of the others was a trailer that had a puncture, and had swerved hard before stopping.
The final one involved an articulated lorry and a small car. The car had damage to the front left corner of the engine bay, and it was facing “upstream” to the traffic. You can only wonder what had happened for this to be the result.
All the incidents were being attended and helped by either the Police or the Highways Support Agency vehicles.
So it seems that although people are conscious of the risks of high-speed driving, there are still people who are willing to risk their (and others’) safety in the hope that they will get to their destination just a few minutes faster than the rest of us.
It seems that the old system of;
Look Well Ahead,
Keep Your Eyes Moving,
Spot The Problems,
KEEP SPACE, and
are still as important as ever.
Driving at speed is tiring: take a break before you get tired. Get out, walk around, eat or drink something. Drive on when you are ready. Do it again when you need to.
Constant monitoring of your;
Mirrors, signals, positioning, speed and gears, and looking well ahead
is just as vital here as it is on any other road.
Thank goodness that the emergency services are still able to monitor
the busy roads, and react to whatever they find.
Thank goodness that the motorways have still got hard shoulders that
are used as hard shoulders, not full of other traffic when used as extra lanes
where there is congestion.
Thank goodness that the only ambulance I saw all day was parked in the
Chievely Service area.
The Highway Code (Motorways)