Researchers for the National Motorway Month campaign conducted a nationwide survey of 15,000 vehicles measuring tailgating and lane discipline in July. From this survey, the RAC Foundation estimates that ‘middle-lane hogs’ and ‘outside lane-blockers’ are wasting up to one-third of motorway capacity in peak periods, due to poor lane discipline. This 700 miles ‘lost’ is equivalent to the distance from Aberdeen to Penzance.
The police have the power to pull over motorists for poor lane discipline and also can prosecute if they consider a driver’s behaviour amounts to inconsiderate driving. With an 11 per cent decrease in traffic police in England and Wales since 1997, however, and a lack of visible police presence on the motorways, many motorists are left to get away with their selfish ‘lane-hogging’ behaviour.
Also identified during the survey was the problem of "phantom traffic jams" caused by red light braking. Often poor lane discipline leads to vehicles tailgating. Any slight incident such as changing lanes, or leaving the motorway, may force a tailgating motorist to hit the brakes hard.
This can produce a brake light domino effect with all the subsequent cars braking hard until they eventually come to a standstill. This creates a phantom traffic jam although there is no accident or hold-up other than that caused by excessive braking.
Today the RAC Foundation is calling for drivers not to hog the middle and outside lanes, and to pull over to the left-hand lane when not over-taking, as suggested in the Highway Code. The Foundation is also urging drivers to keep their distance from the car in front, in order to avoid causing phantom traffic jams through unnecessary red-light braking.
Hogging the middle-lane is selfish, can cause congestion, accidents and road rage by infuriating other drivers. A recent RAC Foundation survey has shown that poor lane discipline is in the top five annoying motorway-driving habits. The full list is:
1. Tailgaters – over 40% of drivers are guilty of tailgating on the motorways. This is annoying to other drivers and dangerous as it limits motorists’ ability to react to events ahead.
2. Middle-lane hoggers – one-third of motorway capacity is lost due to poor-lane discipline. This frustrating behaviour is a major cause of road-rage on motorways.
3. Non-indicators - people who don’t use their indicators to signal their intentions are both a nuisance and a danger to other motorists.
4. Swoopers – who cut across lanes with little regard for other motorists. Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation says: "Poor lane discipline wastes the scarce resource of road capacity, encourages road rage and leads to dangerous tailgating.
"It takes more than ten years to build an extra motorway lane. We could in effect add an extra 700 miles of motorway overnight if motorists improved their lane discipline.
"We would like to see more traffic police on motorways pulling drivers over for hogging the middle lane. In the late 50’s and early 60’s "courtesy cops" advised drivers how to use the lanes on the new dual carriageways and motorways. Perhaps we need some courtesy cops on the motorways today."