Motorways and Dual Carriageways

Statistically motorways and dual carriageways are the safest roads because everything is going in the same direction and there are no junctions in front of us. The slip roads allow us to join and leave these roads in relative safety.

You can turn right on a dual carriageway but not on a motorway. Dual carriageways can have large roundabouts on them. They tend to be large multi exit junctions allowing traffic to leave and join easily.

Motorways have coloured studs as well as the normal white ones.  It can be difficult at first to remember what they mean but an easy way to remember is to think of traffic lights. There are green studs on the slip roads, green means “GO” so you would be leaving or joining. The hard shoulder has red studs along it because you cannot go on it unless directed to or in an emergency. Red meaning danger or stop. Amber studs are along the central reservation warning of a hazard because the central reservation is there to stop traffic crossing onto the other carriageway.  The lanes are marked with white studs as normal, so if you are stuck in theory test and can’t remember what they mean just think traffic lights.

Quite often, when motorways and dual carriageways have roadworks, the transport police set up “contraflows and withflows” usually with large cones or temporary barriers to separate the traffic. If the other carriageway is blocked for any reason.  Contraflow means, against the flow of traffic, therefore your will either be driving in a lane coned off that is travelling towards  the oncoming traffic or travelling in the same direction which would be a “with” flow. This is to separate streams of traffic that could be a danger to each other and protect those working on the roads. “contra” and “with” flows are often accompanied by a temporary speed limit that will be enforced by speed cameras.

Be very careful with controlling your speed on motorways especially, as it is possible to lose your licence in one trip. If you get caught speeding by more than one camera in the same trip then it is possible to collect enough points to lose your licence in one day.

Many of the signs on motorways are dot matrix and are suspended over the carriageway on gantries.  Keep observing to make sure you don’t miss any that apply to you, such as warnings of roadworks ahead, lane closures and a change in speed limit.  Make sure you plan your journey in advance and know which junction numbers you need to join and leave the motorway on. Ensure that you keep an eye on the junction numbers whilst on the motorway, so to be in the left hand lane a couple of miles before the junction you need to leave by. You really don’t to be stuck in either of the overtaking lanes and having to cross the traffic in order to leave.

Effective observation is so important on a motorway/ dual carriageway. Its important on any road but remember the speed involved on these roads and the danger is that you will lose concentration through boredom. Even if it seems that nothing is happening, you can look and there’s nothing there, then look again and a car is steaming down the far right lane at the speed of a ballistic missile!!  All it takes is for you to cross lanes without looking and the consequences are not worth it. USE YOUR BLOODY MIRRORS, because there is always plenty around you that don’t.  Many of the accidents on motorways are due to drivers falling asleep at the wheel. Motorways are boring especially in the early hours of the morning. Make sure you have regular breaks at services. If you feel sleepy and you can’t get off the motorway immediately then open a window and let the fresh air in. even though there are fewer accidents on motorways, when they happen they tend to include fatalities and one hell of a mess due to the speed involved.   So don’t allow yourself to become distracted or tired.

If your vehicle breaks down on a motorway then stop on the hard shoulder and use one of the emergency boxes located at regular intervals along the carriageway. They go straight through to the emergency services and they will help you from there.  If they are working put your hazard warning lights on and sit on the verge away from the vehicle. If you have to stay in the car then sit on the passenger side in case the vehicle is struck by another one leaving the carriageway. If you have one, place a warning triangle at the back of the vehicle also.  If you are a female travelling alone, stay in the vehicle and lock the doors. Sit on the nearside of the vehicle until help arrives. Do not open the doors to anyone other than the emergency services.

If you are travelling with a roof rack and luggage on the outside of the vehicle, make sure it is secure. Should anything come adrift then do not try and retrieve it yourself, stop on the hard shoulder and use the call boxes to call the police. They will send a traffic car to come and safely retrieve it for you.

Always check the following is in good order before going on a long journey, remembering that if you are using dual carriageways / motorways then the vehicle will be doing high speeds for sustained periods of time and the following should be in good order

Tyres…… at least 1.6mm of tread. Free of foreign objects, cuts and abrasions. Also check the pressure.

Oil, coolant and screen wash


Test that brakes.