Motorway Driving: How to Drive on the Motorway

Surprisingly, motorway driving is not covered within your driving test in Ireland. This seems less surprising when you are an experienced driver driving on the motorway witnessing many others in the wrong lane. Here’s our guide to driving on the motorway in Ireland.

1. Motorway Driving Must Knows

Before you attempt to drive on the motorway there are some things you need to know. You cannot drive on the motorway...

  • If you are a learner driver
  • If your vehicle or tractor can’t reach and maintain a speed of 50km per hour
  • If your vehicle has an engine capacity under 50cc
  • If your vehicle doesn’t have inflated tyres
  • If you are driving a motorised wheelchair
  • If you are walking or cycling.

The maximum speed limit on the motorway is usually 120km per hour. Sometimes this is reduced when road works are taking place or if there are bad weather conditions. Other motorway users such as bus, truck, caravan, horse / cattle box drivers and those towing a trailer are restricted to a lower speed limit. 

2. Drive in the Left Lane

This is the main rule associated with driving on the motorway. The left hand lane should be used unless you need to overtake a slower car in front or if the lane is blocked. If you are overtaking you must move back to the left lane as soon as possible. You may also need to vacate the left lane to make space for merging vehicles, but again, you need to go back into the left lane as soon as possible. 

If you’re driving on a three-lane motorway there is an extra lane for overtaking but you should still keep as left as possible and avoid:

  • Driving in the right lane if the middle lane is empty 
  • Driving in the middle lane if the left lane is empty

The right lane is off limits for HGV’s, vehicles towing a trailer, horse / cattle boxes and caravans. The only exception to this is when an obstruction is blocking the other lanes. 

3. Drive Safely

As there is so much movement among vehicles between lanes you must consistently check your mirrors when driving on the motorway. 

4. Moving Lanes

Before moving, overtaking or changing lanes remember: MSMM - mirror, signal, mirror, move. Check your mirrors and blind spots and indicate to let other drivers know you want to move and keep a safe distance from the car in front and behind you. A signal should be given everytime you change lanes. Always give sufficient space to the overtaken vehicle when returning to your lane. Remember to switch your indicator off once you have completed your move. 

5. Blindspots 

As well as checking your own blindspots before moving, you should stay out of other driver’s blindspots. This especially applies to larger vehicles. 

6. Overtaking 

Only overtake a vehicle on its right side. One exception is if traffic is moving slowly and the lane on your right is moving slower than you are. Besides this, passing on the left side is called undertaking and is extremely dangerous. 

7. One Lane at a Time

Only move one lane at a time when changing lanes on the motorway. Never drive across a lane to get to the next one. 

8. Maintain Distance 

Always maintain a safe stopping distance between you and the car in front. In dry conditions use the 2-second rule and in wetter conditions allow extra stopping distance of around 4 seconds. 

9. Extra / Auxiliary Lanes

An extra lane known as the auxiliary lane exists on some motorways including the M50. This lane is separated from the main carriageway by road markings that are closer together than standard broken white lines. These lanes allow people to join the motorway and leave the motorway in a safe way in advance of a junction or exit. Auxiliary lanes also give drivers extra time to merge onto the main carriageway when joining the motorway. 

Tip: looking for more driving advice? Read our articles tips for passing your driving testguide to buying your first car and tips for learner drivers.

Wherever you’re at with your driving journey make sure you, your passengers and your car are protected with a comprehensive or third-party fire and theft car insurance policy from AIG. View our different cover options and get an online quote in minutes. 


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