NEWS that a Wigan man had become the first driver in the UK to be prosecuted for hogging the middle lane of a motorway has caused confusion among motorists.
Last month, Ian Stephens from Church Lane, Shevington, was sentenced in his absence by Leeds magistrates, having been pulled over by a motorway patrol on the M62 near Huddersfield as he returned from a family visit to Yorkshire.
Motoring experts say safety is the key issue in the debate about middle lane hoggers. Some argue the middle lane is the safest place to be on a motorway as it offers the most space between you and the barriers on either side of the road.
These drivers claim it means they are not mixing with the slower heavy goods vehicle traffic that is predominantly in lane one and also means they are not preventing other drivers from passing in lane three.
However, the Highway Code Rule 264 clearly states that all drivers must keep to the left-hand lane when not overtaking.
This means all drivers of all vehicles should be in lane one unless they are passing slower vehicles.
Depending on the speed of your vehicle and those in the inner lanes, the amount of space and time you have will determine whether or not it’s safe to move to the inside lane.
The police recommend maintaining a 100-metre gap between your car and the one in front at 70mph.
Handily, this equates to a two-second gap and that is the safe amount of time in dry conditions to allow for spotting a hazard further up the road and reacting in time to keep yourself and other motorists safe.
Just as handily, most sections of motorway have marker boards placed every 100 metres along the hard shoulder, so it is not difficult to gauge a 100-metre distance to the car in front.
Given this safe distance, which should be doubled in wet weather, it’s easy to identify a space between vehicles in the inside lane that is a sufficient distance to pull into.
While some might think it pointless to change lanes for a short distance and period of time, it is good driving practice.
It allows cars behind to pass without using the third lane, which in turn helps keep traffic flowing smoothly.
What you must not do while driving in lane one or two is overtake traffic in the outer lanes.
Known as undertaking, it’s illegal in the UK and dangerous, and could result in a conviction for driving without due care or even careless driving. This is also true of driving on the hard shoulder, which is there only for emergencies or if you are directed to drive on the hard shoulder by the police.
Another reason for keeping left unless overtaking is it demonstrates to any police traffic officers that you know and understand the rules of the road. Should they stop you for a minor offence, it can be the difference between a ticking off and being fined and given points on your driving licence, as the Wigan van driver found out to his cost.