Passing opinions

* Middle-lane hoggers exposed * Costing the economy billions * Causing accidents, too...

Author Avatar
What Car? Staff
09 April 2010

Perhaps allowing left-lane overtaking would ease the pressure on UK motorways. After all, drivers in some other countries can pass on either side of cars in the middle lane.

The Highway Code makes some provision for this, saying: In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than the traffic to the right. In these conditions you may keep up with the traffic in your lane even if this means passing traffic in the lane to your right.

However, this is not a green light for drivers to swoop round the inside of the middle-lane driver, and then back in front again. This could be construed as careless or dangerous driving, offences punishable by a fine, penalty points, potential disqualification or even imprisonment, depending on the outcome of the manoeuvre.

Re-educating drivers to make better use of the road space available is a solution already under trial. The Highways Agency has run Keep Left campaigns, showing messages on roadside gantries reminding drivers not to hog the middle lane. Stuart Lovatt, safety action plan coordinator for the Highways Agency, says: We have promoted safety messages many times in recent years to encourage drivers not to hog the middle lane, as part of our commitment to making journeys safer and journey times more reliable. The effects of these messages have been quite noticeable while they ran, and we'll continue to do these and similar activities to promote safe driver behaviour.

What would you do to ease congestion?Poor driving isnt the only problem. We asked users what they would do to reduce congestion. The most popular suggestion was build more roads (39%), followed by improve driving standards (36%).
To manage the ever-increasing congestion simply through road building, the DfT says it would need to increase its programme several times over, but thats financially and environmentally unacceptable.
The Government is trying to manage congestion in other ways, however. Transport minister Sadiq Khan said: Earlier this year we announced 6 billion to help increase capacity on the motorway and major road network, including variable speed limits, and far better driver information which will lead to a system of managed motorways.
Expect to see more hard-shoulder running, which offers a quicker, cheaper solution to motorway congestion than widening the road. A DfT spokesman said: It delivers more reliable journey times and adds a third more capacity at a lower cost than a more conventional road-widening scheme.