Common motorway myths debunked

Common motorway myths debunked
Common motorway myths debunked

There are around 2,300 miles of motorway across Britain, stretching from England’s south west to central Scotland but, according to new research, they remain a bit of a mystery to many drivers.

A study of motorists’ knowledge has revealed that many people struggle with the basics of driving on a motorway and some young drivers are so scared of them that they avoid motorways altogether.


One in three drivers admits to not understand motorway signs, a third have they exceeded the 70mph speed limit, claiming they were unsure of the rules of the road, and almost a quarter (23 per cent) have ignored red X signs on smart motorways.

The poll of motorists was by conducted by car supermarket CarShop, which has developed a quiz to test drivers’ motorway knowledge.

It also found that many new drivers were too scared to drive on motorways. Sixty per cent of millennials questioned said they avoid them completely, suggesting that allowing learners onto motorways could be a smart move in improving driver confidence.

And many continue to believe widely-held but wrong beliefs about motorway driving so to help clear matters up here are the facts behind some of the most common motorway myths.

Fast lane and slow lane

The ‘fast lane’ and ‘slow lane’ are commonly used phrases but they don’t actually exist. The left hand lane should be used for normal driving and the other lanes should only be used for overtaking.

Despite what many people call them, there is no fast lane or slow lane. (Picture: Shutterstock)
Despite what many people call them, there is no fast lane or slow lane. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Right of way

When joining a motorway, you should give way to traffic already in lane. Many believe drivers on the motorway should give way to those joining, but they actually have the right of way. It’s the joining driver’s responsibility to join the motorway safely.

Smart motorway speed cameras

On smart motorways, even when display screens are inactive and completely black, the integrated speed cameras are still active and can capture the number plates of speeding drivers as normal. Speed cameras on smart motorways do not turn off.

Smart motorway speeds are advisory

Some drivers appear to struggle with the basics of smart motorways (Picture: Shutterstock)
Some drivers appear to struggle with the basics of smart motorways (Picture: Shutterstock)

Speed limits displayed on smart motorways are often thought to be advisory, but this isn’t always the case. If the speed displayed is in a red circle it is a mandatory limit and you will be committing an offence if you exceed the displayed limit – you’re likely to be captured by speed cameras if you do so. It’s only when the speed displayed is accompanied by orange flashing lights that a limit is advisory.

Running out of fuel

Many people believe that it’s illegal to run out of fuel on the motorway, and that you may receive a fine if this happens – but this is a myth. You should never commit to a long journey if you feel you may run out of fuel, but if you do run out, you won’t be fined by the authorities unless police decide your actions constitute careless driving.

Petrol pump labels have changed - here is all you need to know

New symbols reflects use of renewable fuels and brings UK in line with Europe

Lego launches Technic Land Rover Defender set

2,500-piece kit features four-wheel-drive and working gearbox

The hidden faults plaguing some of Britain’s most popular cars

Manufacturers including Nissan, BMW and Tesla urged to come clean over common faults that could leave drivers out of pocket

Goodwood Festival of Speed 2020: dates, drivers, dress code and things to do at the motoring garden party

Here's everything you need to know about the 2020 Goodwood Festival of Speed.