Overtaking & Leaving
Overtaking is easily and fairly straightforward on the motorway, simply allow yourself lots of space and time.
Start your overtake manoeuvre early and well back from the vehicle you wish to pass. the nearer you get, the harder it will be to pull out. This is because you won't have the space in which to build up your speed.
If you follow this closely you will have no chance of a safe overtake and the driver of the truck won't be able to see you in his mirrors ...
If the view in the picture is your normal view before overtaking you are at least 50 metres too close!
Give your signal early and allow it to flash a few times before starting to move - this will warn drivers behind of your intentions (as opposed to the normal method adopted by many drivers of putting on the signal after they have started the manoeuvre!).
Check your mirrors and a quick glance in your blind-spot (over your right shoulder) before moving out.
After you have overtaken, and as soon as you can see the overtaken vehicle in your centre mirror, move back to your original lane. Depending upon your position a signal might be useful.
Cancel your signal! Make sure that your signal is cancelled after use because there won't be enough steering action to self-cancel the signal during normal lane change manoeuvres on motorways. The signal check needs to be a positive act - because of road noise, or your favourite motorway driving CD you might not hear the indicators warning clicks - its also possible that you won't be checking your speedo quite as much and so won't notice the flashing light on the dash.
Signal or not?
My basic rule for motorway signals is: 'If in doubt and give a signal'. If you are monitoring the traffic and leaving plenty of space a signal should not be needed as there will be plenty of time for others to see what you are doing - but as with joining the motorway there might be others that needs a 'wake up call' or those who are stupid enough to accelerate if they see a driver start to move without a signal - "You're not pushing in front of me without signalling!"
Keep space to the sides
For extra safety when overtaking never put yourself into a position where there is no 'escape route'. For example if you are in lane three overtaking a lorry in lane-two, avoid getting stuck alongside it - make sure that there is plenty of room to pass on get ahead of it before starting to overtake.
In the example on the right, you would have to wait for the white van to move out of the way so that you have a clear space to drive into before you start to pass the truck.
Leaving the motorway
You will normally leave the motorway via an exit slip road. If you are planned your journey well your first task will be to look out for the exit number.
All motorway junctions are numbered and the exit number can be found in the bottom left-hand corner of the direction signs in a black square with white numbers. The first direction signs for your junction will have the road numbers and the junction number - but will not have names of the destination. This sign is one mile from the exit.
The second direction sign will be like the first but this time would include place names like the one shown on the right. This sign is positioned half a mile from the junction. By the time you reach this sign you should be thinking of moving back to the left-hand lane if you are not already there. Information is also given on gantry signs at some junctions.
Finally, you will see the countdown markers. These are placed 270, 180 and 90 metres respectively from the start of the deceleration lane.
As you pass the first countdown marker signal your intention to leave the motorway but maintain your speed - you can slow down in the deceleration lane and on the slip road.
As soon as you enter the slip road, check your speedometer; you might be travelling much faster than you think (50mph can feel like 30mph after a long fast journey).
Some slip roads have sharp curves that can take drivers by surprise if they are travelling to fast – beware!