Middle Lane Mayhem

Something quite run-of-the-mill happened this morning; a guy attempted to read the chassis number of my car in the outside lane of a packed M6 whilst flashing lights and wildly gesticulating in suggestive manner.

The scenario panned out as follows; slow moving vehicle in inside lane, truck pulls into the middle lane to overtake said slow moving vehicle at approximately 3mph ascension.  I break heavily to avoid impact with said truck and am undertaken from the inside lane, then wait approximately a mile for a safe opportunity to pull into the outside lane in order to overtake.  I slide into the outside lane (with more than ample room I may add), my speed at this point is exactly 70mph, in line with the traffic ahead.

Anyway, the car originally far behind approaches like a ‘bat out of hell’ to within a nano-millimeter of my rear bumper, and we are back to the start of the sorry story.  Now, I’m not overly sensitive, but nobody likes unwarranted criticism, and my mood already was not great on account of my Iphone requiring urgent replacement.  The Bluetooth link to the car is at best sporadic now you understand, so I’d had to listen to Heart FM rather than Apple music for the prior hour.  There is only so much Ed Sheeran and Starship one person can take.

Road Traffic Incidents at high speed can of course be catastrophic and there are very few who use motorways often that rate the quality of driving you see day to day.  The rules and regulations, of course, are designed to minimise the number of incidents, but do they? And are they enforced adequately?

The number of fatalities on motorways is a small proportion of the overall incidents on our roads. 59% of fatalities occur on country roads for example, 10 times the amount as on Motorways.  Fatalities on the Strategic Road Network (Motorways and major A roads – image below) account for 9% overall.

UK map

(strategic road network map)

We should always be looking to heighten safety and improve traffic flow, and the familiarity of the events that I experienced above would suggest there is room for improvement. Apparently only around 80% of motorway journeys pass without delay so this is an issue that causes significant extra cost and service issues to the logistics industry.

Graph - number of fatalities by road type

The ‘free flow’ (ie unhindered) average speed of traffic on Motorways is actually roughly approximate to the speed limits, as can be seen in the infograph below from DFT statistics.  The RAC’s annual report finds that 66% feel that the speed limit for cars should be increased to at least 80mph, 70% state that they frequently or sometimes break the speed limit on motorways.  Somewhat like the under-reporting of Conservative support in opinion polling; Brake have it at 57% so were obviously asking ‘shy’ speeders, if you have spent any time recently on motorways.

Free Flow Speed Statistics Map

Now, I dislike quoting the Express on anything (not as much as the Mail, but close), but they had an interesting survey relatively recently that displays attitudes to ‘bad’ driving.  Coming quite high up the list are two common motorway related driver gripes, middle lane hogging and not leaving plenty of space behind the car in front.  Interestingly speeding comes behind overtaking horses as a concern so again further evidence of either a lack of concern on the issue from drivers.


  1. Not indicating clearly – 58 per cent
  2. Hogging middle lane on a motorway – 56 per cent
  3. Not leaving plenty of space behind car in front – 51 per cent
  4. Getting angry with other motorists – 46 per cent
  5. Selfish parking – 45 per cent
  6. Not thanking other drivers – 43 per cent
  7. Not slowing down to pass horses – 34 per cent
  8. Speeding – 30 per cent
  9. Too close to cyclists – 29 per cent
  10. Beeping horn in anger – 27 per cent


Speeding, and not following the rules of the Highway code, are of course contributory factors in a significant number of Road Traffic Accidents, as can be seen from the last reported statistics (2015) below.

Contributory factors in reported incidents


Table - Contributory factors in accidents

So we have a problem with peoples’ perceptions around the rules of the road, and the disregard of them increases accident rates.  It would appear that we need more effective enforcement of both speed and behaviour on the motorways.  Hopefully the roll-out of Smart motorways, speed cameras and other technology can bring some tangible safety improvements on the roads.











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