**For newly qualified drivers I would highly recommend you undertake a few motorway lessons
before taking to the Motorway yourself. It will be an invaluable exercise and Investment.**
DRIVING ON A MOTORWAY
For newly qualified drivers, the thought of driving on a Motorway can cause dread and fear. However today's Motorways are the safest roads in Ireland and are an excellent way of covering long distances quickly. The following information will help to prepare you for the day you make your motorway driving debut.
When starting to use a Motorway, do so at off-peak times, preferably mid-morning, early afternoon or Sunday mornings.
When you started driving, 50kph seemed quite fast but as you grew in confidence so did your driving.
You will be expected to drive between 80- 100kph on a Motorway and maintain this constant speed.
It will take you a while to acclimatise to this enviroment.
Your awareness of traffic around you will need to increase dramatically.
Observing well ahead is crucial because of the speed you are now travelling at and information about the constant changing of traffic both behind and infront of you is vital if you intend to overtake other vehicles or leave the Motorway.
In the beginning it will seem very strange as vehicles will be over-taking you at will. These vehicles will include 40ft Trucks, Buses, Large lorries, Camper Vans with Trailers, other cars etc... Some vehicles may also overtake you on your left-hand side if you are travelling in the centre lane of a 3 lane Motorway.
ENTERING A MOTORWAY
When joining a Motorway you will use Slip Lanes or Off Ramps. These Slip Lanes merge with the left lane of a Motorway. They taper in over several hundred metres. You may find one slip lane merging or you may find 2 slip lanes merging where one will merge over a longer distance.
The idea of the Slip Lane is to allow you to merge safely by building up sufficient speed so when you do merge you will not be holding up following traffic.
Depending on the volume of traffic on the Motorway as you enter it, you may find that you will have to slow down in order to merge with the traffic in the left lane of the Motorway.
Normally when merging, the existing motorway traffic should move into the outer lane to facilitate you merging ahead. But this is not always the case... .Traffic in the outer lane might hinder a vehicle from moving out or they will just not move out for you.
You will need to check your wing mirror several times before you merge and a quick glance over your right shoulder to check your blind spot is required. Do not cross the Hatch markings as you merge.
Just because the max speed limit is 120kph does not mean you have to travel at that speed.
Firstly you need to get comfortable with the new faster pace of the Motorway.
YOUR POSITION ON A MOTORWAY.
On a 2 lane Motorway you should stay in the left lane. The outer lane is an over-taking lane. Be aware in the left lane as it can become quite busy and congested as vehicles will be merging and diverging ahead particularly during peak hours.
The centre lane of a 3-lane Motorway is a good safe lane to be in. This will allow you to monitor the road ahead and to see road signs clearly and early. It also allows for better awareness to your left and right of following traffic.
OVER-TAKING \ CHANGING LANES.
When your confidence and your general awareness improves and you start to feel confortable with your new surroundings, you can do an over-taking manoeuvre. If you do it from the left lane to the middle lane and back your speed will be manageable and you can build up your confidence.
Check centre mirror, right wing mirror and a quick glance over right shoulder to check your blind spot. When safe, signal your intent, check wing mirror again and move out. You will have to increase your speed to complete this manoeuvre.
When you have over-taken your vehicle check your centre mirror, left wing mirror ensuring you have completely cleared your passing vehicle, signal your intent then a quick left shoulder glance and return to the centre lane.
The outer lane of a Motorway is for over-taking only. When you have completed over-taking return to left lane.
When doing an over-taking manoeuvre in the outer lane of a 3-lane Motorway, the same checks apply as above.
The increase in speed when over-taking can feel like a big adrenalin rush. So be careful and stay in control. Return to centre lane on completion of manoeuvre.
Please note that heavy goods vehicles (HGV'S) including buses, coaches, lorries, vehicles towing caravans or trailers
are not permitted to use the outer-lane of a Motorway and are not permitted to exceed 100kph.
LEAVING A MOTORWAY
You will exit a Motorway using a Junction via a Slip Lane\Off ramp. These junctions are clearly marked with signs starting from 2km's out, then 1km, then countdown signs at 300 metre, 200 metre and 100metre intervals before the slip road to the exit begins. Some slip roads are short while others are quite long. Give yourself plenty of time to assess, decide and act.
Check your surroundings, your observation and signal your intent early to inform other road users what your intentions are.
Remember to slowdown progressively through the slip lane and judge your speed well. If you need to cross several lanes to reach your slip lane , cross each lane as a single manoeuvre, DO NOT cross several lanes in one manoeuvre.
You will find 2 or 3 lanes at the end of the exit slip lane to either turn left, continue straight or turn right. Choose your lane early. Slowing down from 100kph to possibly stopping in a short distance can be daunting. Be aware and stay in control.
If you happen to miss your intended exit drive to the next exit. Do not cross hatch lines to make a late attempt to exit and...
...NEVER ATTEMPT TO REVERSE BACK UP A MOTORWAY TO SLIP ROAD.
Cross over the FLY-OVER and return down the Slip Lane\Off Ramp on the other side and continue to the required junction.
THE HARD SHOULDER
You should only ever use the Hard Shoulder in case of an Emergency or a Breakdown or when you are instructed to do so by Emergency Services. If there is severe traffic congestion on a particular section of a Motorway it may be used as a temporary lane and will be sign-posted and marked. A Garda Points Person will be on Duty to direct traffic.
SAFE MOTORWAY DRIVING
The maximum speed limit on a Motorway in Ireland is 120kph. You will also find a maximum speed limit of 100kph on certain stretches of a motorway.
Given the speeds that are reached on a Motorway, you need to be aware of what is happening around you and well ahead of you at all times.
Always keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front. At least a 2 second gap is required on a dry day and double on a wet day. You should know how to keep a 2 second gap. Follow this link for more information.
Be aware of other vehicles brake lights being used, ease off the accelerator in anticipation of what is happening ahead. Sudden braking can be very dangerous. It can create a chain reaction leading to Tail backs, traffic jams or even collisions.
Be aware of the constant change of what is behind you by checking your mirrors regularly. Avoid getting "boxed in" with a slow moving vehicle in front and someone tail-gating you. If this happens gently ease off the accelerator so as to increase the distance between you and the car in front, then when safe to do so overtake the vehicle.
Pay attention to Motorway digital readout warning and information signs.
They will inform you of any dangers ahead. Flashing Amber lights indicate a hazard ahead.
A temporary maximum speed limit may also feature on the sign as well as other warning messages. When ever you see these information signs you must modify your speed and continue to comply with the instruction until you have passed a signal indicating end of warning or hazard.
Driver Fatigue. The dangers of driver fatigue are outlined below. Rolling down your window for some fresh air will not cure driver fatigue. Pull over and park in a well lit and safe area and have a snooze for 30 minutes.
4,000 people are killed per year throughout Europe because of driver tiredness
Driver fatigue contributes to 1 in 5 deaths in Ireland
Tiredness related collisions are 3 times more likely to result in death or serious injury
Fatigue related injuries are more likely to occur between 2 and 6 am and 3 and 5 pm
A motorist is 13 times more likely to have a tiredness related collision in the early morning than in the mid-morning or afternoon