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Full contents
1-35   Rules for pedestrians
36-46   Rules for users of powered wheelchairs and mobility scooters
47-58   Rules about animals
58-82   Rules for cyclists
83-88   Rules for motorcyclists
89-102   Rules for drivers and motorcyclists
103-158   General rules, techniques and advice for all drivers and riders
159-203   Using the road
204-225   Road users requiring extra care
226-237   Driving in adverse weather conditions
238-252   Waiting and parking
253-273   Motorways
274-287   Breakdowns and incidents
288-290   Road works
291-299   Level crossings
300-307   Tramways
Choosing and maintaining your bicycle  
Motorcycle licence requirements  
Motor vehicle documentation and learner driver requirements  
The road user and the law  
Vehicle maintenance, safety and security  
First aid on the road  
Safety code for new drivers  
Signs & markings
Light signals controlling traffic  
Signals to other road users  
Signals by authorised persons  
Traffic signs
Signs giving orders  
Warning signs  
Direction signs  
Information signs  
Road works signs  
Road markings  
Vehicle markings  

Highway code


253 - 273   back next >
Many other Rules apply to motorway driving, either wholly or in part: Rules 46, 57, 83-126, 130-134, 139, 144, 146-151, 160, 161, 219, 221-222, 225, 226-237, 274-278, 280, and 281-290.
Prohibited vehicles. Motorways MUST NOT be used by pedestrians, holders of provisional motorcycle or car licences, riders of motorcycles under 50 cc, cyclists, horse riders, certain slow-moving vehicles and those carrying oversized loads (except by special permission), agricultural vehicles, and powered wheelchairs/powered mobility scooters (see Rules 36-46 incl).
Laws HA 1980 sects 16, 17 & sch 4, MT(E&W)R regs 3(d), 4 & 11, MT(E&W)(A)R, R(S)A sects 7, 8 & sch 3, RTRA sects 17(2) & (3), & MT(S)R reg 10
254 Traffic on motorways usually travels faster than on other roads, so you have less time to react. It is especially important to use your mirrors earlier and look much further ahead than you would on other roads.
      Motorway signals
Motorway signals (see 'Light signals controlling traffic') are used to warn you of a danger ahead. For example, there may be an incident, fog, a spillage or road workers on the carriageway which you may not immediately be able to see.
Signals situated on the central reservation apply to all lanes. On very busy stretches, signals may be overhead with a separate signal for each lane.
The Highway Code book
The Highway Code
Highway code book
Amber flashing lights. These warn of a hazard ahead. The signal may show a temporary maximum speed limit, lanes that are closed or a message such as ‘Fog’. Adjust your speed and look out for the danger until you pass a signal which is not flashing or one that gives the ‘All clear’ sign and you are sure it is safe to increase your speed.
258 Red flashing lights.If red lights on the overhead signals flash above your lane and a red ‘X’ is showing, you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in that lane. If red lights flash on a signal in the central reservation or at the side of the road, you MUST NOT go beyond the signal in any lane.
Laws RTA 1988 sect 36 & TSRGD regs 10 & 38
      Driving on the motorway
Joining the motorway. When you join the motorway you will normally approach it from a road on the left (a slip road) or from an adjoining motorway. You should
give priority to traffic already on the motorway
check he traffic on the motorway and match your speed to fit safely into the traffic flow in the left-hand lane
not cross solid white lines that separate lanes or use the hard shoulder
stay on the slip road if it continues as an extra lane on the motorway
remain in the left-hand lane long enough to adjust to the speed of traffic before considering overtaking.
      On the motorway
When you can see well ahead and the road conditions are good, you should
drive at a steady cruising speed which you and your vehicle can handle safely and is within the speed limit (see Rule 124)
keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front and increase the gap on wet or icy roads, or in fog (see Rules 126 and 235)
261 You MUST NOT exceed 70 mph (112 km/h), or the maximum speed limit permitted for your vehicle (see Rule 124). If a lower speed limit is in force, either permanently or temporarily, at road works for example, you MUST NOT exceed the lower limit. On some motorways, mandatory motorway signals (which display the speed within a red ring) are used to vary the maximum speed limit to improve traffic flow. You MUST NOT exceed this speed limit. Law RTRA sects 17, 86, 89 & sch 6
262 The monotony of driving on a motorway can make you feel sleepy. To minimise the risk, follow the advice in Rule 91.
263 You MUST NOT reverse, cross the central reservation, or drive against the traffic flow. If you have missed your exit, or have taken the wrong route, carry on to the next exit.
Laws MT(E&W)R regs 6,8 & 10 & MT(S)R regs 4,5,7 & 9
      Lane discipline
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. You MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or if directed to do so by the police, HA traffic officers in uniform or by signs.
Laws MT(E&W)R regs 5, 9 & 16(1)(a), MT(S)R regs 4, 8 & 14(1)(a), and RTA 1988, sects 35 & 186, as amended by TMA 2004 sect 6.
265 The right-hand lane of a motorway with three or more lanes MUST NOT be used (except in prescribed circumstances) if you are driving
any vehicle drawing a trailer
a goods vehicle with a maximum laden weight exceeding 3.5 tonnes but not exceeding 7.5 tonnes, which is required to be fitted with a speed limiter
a goods vehicle with a maximum laden weight exceeding 7.5 tonnes
a passenger vehicle with a maximum laden weight exceeding 7.5 tonnes constructed or adapted to carry more than eight seated passengers in addition to the driver
a passenger vehicle with a maximum laden weight not exceeding 7.5 tonnes which is constructed or adapted to carry more than eight seated passengers in addition to the driver, which is required to be fitted with a speed limiter.
Laws MT(E&W)R reg 12, MT(E&W)AR (2004), MT(S)R reg 11 & MT(S)AR (2004)
266 Approaching a junction. Look well ahead for signals or signs. Direction signs may be placed over the road. If you need to change lanes, do so in good time. At some junctions a lane may lead directly off the motorway. Only get in that lane if you wish to go in the direction indicated on the overhead signs.
Do not overtake unless you are sure it is safe and legal to do so. Overtake only on the right. You should
check your mirrors
take time to judge the speeds correctly
make sure that the lane you will be joining is sufficiently clear ahead and behind
take a quick sideways glance into the blind spot area to verify the position of a vehicle that may have disappeared from your view in the mirror
remember that traffic may be coming up behind you very quickly. Check all your mirrors carefully. Look out for motor cyclists. When it is safe to do so, signal in plenty of time, then move out
ensure you do not cut in on the vehicle you have overtaken
be especially careful at night and in poor visibility when it is harder to judge speed and distance.
268 Do not overtake on the left or move to a lane on your left to overtake. In congested conditions, where adjacent lanes of traffic are moving at similar speeds, traffic in left-hand lanes may sometimes be moving faster than 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. Do not weave in and out of lanes to overtake.
Hard shoulder. You MUST NOT use the hard shoulder for overtaking. In areas where an Active Traffic Management (ATM) Scheme is in force, the hard shoulder may be used as a running lane. You will know when you can use this because a speed limit sign will be shown above all open lanes, including the hard shoulder. A red cross or blank sign above the hard shoulder means that you MUST NOT drive on the hard shoulder except in an emergency or breakdown. Emergency refuge areas have also been built into these areas for use in cases of emergency or breakdown. Laws MT(E&W)R regs 5, 5A & 9, MT(S)R regs 4 & 8
  Highway Code - Seat belts and child restraints
You MUST NOT stop on the carriageway, hard shoulder, slip road, central reservation or verge except in an emergency, or when told to do so by the police, HA traffic officers in uniform, an emergency sign or by flashing red light signals. Do not stop on the hard shoulder to either make or receive mobile phone calls. Laws MT(E&W)R regs 5A, 7, 9, 10 & 16,MT(S)R regs 6(1), 8, 9 & 14, PRA 2002 sect 41 & sched 5(8), & RTA 1988 Sects 35 & 163 as amended by TMA 2004, Sect 6
271 You MUST NOT pick up or set down anyone, or walk on a motorway, except in an emergency. Laws RTRA sect 17 & MT(E&W)R reg 15
      Leaving the motorway
272 Unless signs indicate that a lane leads directly off the motorway, you will normally leave the motorway by a slip road on your left. You should
watch for the signs letting you know you are getting near your exit
move into the left-hand lane well before reaching your exit
signal left in good time and reduce your speed on the slip road as necessary.
Laws MT(E&W)R reg 12, MT(E&W)AR (2004), MT(S)R reg 11 & MT(S)AR (2004)
273 On leaving the motorway or using a link road between motorways, your speed may be higher than you realise - 50 mph may feel like 30 mph. Check your speedometer and adjust your speed accordingly. Some slip-roads and link roads have sharp bends, so you will need to slow down.
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