Don’t Hog The Middle Lane!

We’ve all experienced it on the motorway. A classic Sunday Driver who takes their pastime of dawdling down country lanes to new heights by inflicting their selfishness and potential dangers on the fastest roads of Britain.

It’s probably one of the most infuriating occurrences when a ‘middle lane hogger’ dilly dallies down the middle lane of a motorway with complete disregard for their surroundings. Perhaps not their speed that’s actually bothering everyone, but how they blatantly tune-out other motorists who are actually abiding by the rules of the Highway Code. And let us bring this to the fore-front now – the middle and outside lanes are for overtaking and this is a principle rule of driving on ALL of Britain’s motorways.

Driving On The Motorway
Lane discipline – point 264:

You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slower moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past. Slow moving or speed-restricted vehicles should always remain in the left-hand lane of the carriageway unless overtaking.
Source: The Highway Code

So why do they do it?

Well of course, it’s far more convenient to drive along at a steady pace avoiding all of the big lorries and caravans in the near-side lane, not to mention those bothersome slip-roads in which you have to gauge the speed of the adjacent vehicles attempting to sail in front of you.

Arguably ‘middle lane hoggers’ feel a great deal safer in the middle lane because they don’t have to continually pull-out to overtake vehicles in the near-side lane. Some current web blogs have even seen motorists proudly claim they can travel at a constant 80mph without looking in their rear view mirror or indicating once!

The problem is, drivers who stick to the middle lane encourage surrounding motorists to undertake them which then disturbs the momentum of traffic. Although it is imperative that a driver checks his or her mirrors before pulling into the near-side lane, the fact that the motorist can be relatively confident that the near-side lane is travelling slower than the middle lane means everybody knows where everybody is. Put simply, you can more easily gauge how fast your surrounding motorists are travelling.

When the near-side lane starts travelling faster than the middle and outside lanes, changing lanes can become a hair-raising experience as drivers’ surroundings can become rather disorientated. Therefore, by shunning the Highway Code motorists are slowing faster moving traffic, reducing the motorway’s capacity and increasing danger to others.

So what can be done to try and stop these recalcitrant drivers from causing so much bother on our motorways? In 2004 we saw the start of the Highways Agency’s “Don’t Hog The Middle Lane” campaign. Now these large matrix signs are becoming more frequently seen on Britain’s motorways urging traffic to keep to the near-side lane unless overtaking.

What about police intervention?

Unfortunately, for the same reason the police don’t often pull people over for driving too slowly, they have “more important issues” to deal with.

Sadly, according to the Highways Agency the number of motorists who remain overly content with staying in the middle lane has remained fairly constant since the campaign of 2004. Although we have our strict motoring rules in Britain, perhaps taking a leaf out of France and the USA’s book could help us. These countries encourage overtaking/undertaking on all lanes of the motorway or highway and claim that the flow of traffic therefore increases. And what about the danger aspect? Well, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles (the American equivalent of the DVLA) if you’re going to overtake you should always look in your mirrors anyway, whatever lane you are moving into.

Good point. Maybe we’ve got it wrong on this side of the pond?