Driving on the motorway for the first time can be an overwhelming experience. However, anxiety around motorway driving is often misplaced as UK motorways are amongst the safest roads in the world, according to Highways England. To help reduce nervousness around motorway driving, we will explore key rules and tips to help new drivers tackle the motorway confidently and safely.

Driving on the Motorway for the First Time

Motorway Driving Tips

  • Plan your journey ahead of time by making a mental note of where you will join and exit the motorway, as well as the junction number, or by setting up satellite navigation in your vehicle.
  • Prior to your journey, familiarise yourself with the speed limits and rules of the motorway by reading the Motorway section of the Highway Code.
  • If you feel tired, especially if you are driving on the motorway for the first time, take a break. During a long journey, you should take a break of at least 15 minutes every two hours. Only start driving again when it is safe to do so.

Joining and Exiting the Motorway

When you are approaching the motorway on a slip road, start to build up your speed if weather conditions allow. Observe your surroundings – including your blind spot – and merge safely onto the motorway when it is clear to do so.

When exiting the motorway, observe the interchange signs and countdown markers – indicating every 100 yards to the exit – and move into the correct lane in plenty of time. If possible, avoid breaking until you have reached the slip road. When you have left the motorway, check your speed and gradually reduce it to the new speed limit.

Lane Discipline

When driving on the motorway for the first time, lane discipline can be confusing. However, if drivers do not understand these rules, they could cause traffic disruptions and potential accidents.

The rules are simple: the left-hand lane is for travelling in, the middle and right-hand lane should be used for overtaking. Once you have overtaken a vehicle, move back into the left-hand lane to avoid lane hogging.


If you want to overtake a vehicle in your lane, be sure it is safe to do so first. It’s important to judge the speed of the cars around you and check that the lane you are moving into is clear. Inspect your blind spots and notify other drivers you are changing lanes with your indicator in plenty of time.

Rules of Motorway Driving

  • The motorway speed limit is 70mph, but this can change in the event of an accident, adverse weather conditions or roadworks. Remain vigilant and look for signs indicating a change in speed limit throughout your journey.
  • Allow a minimum of a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front. If the road is wet, increase the gap to at least four seconds. If the road is icy, the gap should be even larger.
  • Stay on the inside lane unless you are overtaking. Hogging the middle and outside lanes can result in an on-the-spot fine of £100 and three points on your license.
  • Once on the motorway, you are unable to reverse or do a U-turn. Only stop if there is an emergency, in which case you should pull over to the hard shoulder or verge.

Since 2018, UK learners have been able to take motorway driving lessons before passing their test. This is a great way to build up confidence with the added safety of a qualified driving instructor sitting by your side. Whether you are driving on the motorway for the first time, or need a refresher course, consider driving lessons to help you develop your driving skills and confidence.