Long life

The pointlessness of outlawing hogging the middle lane

Law enforcement has little effect on road safety

27 June 2015

9:00 AM

27 June 2015

9:00 AM

It is nearly two years since the police were granted new powers to fine motorists for ‘hogging’ the middle lane of a motorway, but it’s only now that anyone has been convicted in court of this offence. A person driving a van at 60 mph on the M62 near Huddersfield has been fined £500 and given five penalty points for doggedly refusing to move out of the middle lane on to the inside one. Press reports of this judgment failed to say to what extent, if any, police have exercised their two-year-old right to give on-the-spot fines to drivers behaving in this way, but I have yet to hear or read of a case, and I would be surprised if there had ever been one. I drive at least twice a week along the M1 between London and Northampton, and I have yet to see the middle lane less than fully occupied by motorists showing no inclination to budge out of it, whatever the circumstance. The police would have to stop hundreds of vehicles and bring the already congested motorway to a complete standstill if they were to take their new powers at all seriously.

Here, it would seem, is an example of a completely pointless new rule that is all but impossible to implement. As far as I can see, it has changed nothing at all. The inside lane is still used only by lorries and excessively timid motorists, while everyone else swerves gaily about between the other two lanes. And why is it only the middle lane that drivers are forbidden to stay glued to? Drivers who won’t move out of the fast lane are far more annoying, because you can’t overtake them. The only way of venting your frustration is to undertake them, which of course you shouldn’t do, since it’s not only illegal but also dangerous. Undertaking is bad for everyone except undertakers.

Driving anywhere in Britain is no fun at all, but driving on the M1 is a particularly gruesome experience. The M1 is not only ugly and congested; it breeds road rage. This being so, it is surprisingly safe. It doesn’t feel as if it is. British drivers, outraged by the behaviour of others, often seem ready to go to their deaths to make their point rather than give way for their own safety. Yet there are many fewer accidents on motorways than there are on ordinary roads. That’s mainly because everybody’s going in the same direction, and has little to do with fear of the law. There seems to be hardly any of that, because there are seldom police around attempting to enforce the law. When the M1 is clear, few drivers observe the 70 mph speed limit. In the fast lane, the normal speed is usually somewhere between 80 and 90 mph, and even 100 mph is not unusual.

In any case, there are limits to what law enforcement can achieve in promoting road safety. Drunkenness is generally assumed to be a major cause of road accidents, but on motorways it’s responsible for only a tiny handful of them. Far more accidents — about 20 per cent of them — are caused by tiredness, about which little can be done. It is easy to frighten motorists into sobriety with the threat of the breathalyser, which can deprive them of their licences even if they are not involved in accidents at all. But you can’t criminalise sleepy driving as you can drunken driving. You can only charge a sleepy driver with being careless or dangerous after an accident has already taken place.

None of this should matter, however, when the fully automated driverless car arrives on the scene. Or so we must hope. Will the driverless car really know how to change lanes on the motorway when it is supposed to? Will it really know when to overtake and when not? It will be astonishing if it does. But we know already that it will never get drunk or sleepy or angry or frustrated. And if it turns out that it really can do all those other things as well, it will be an end to all our troubles. We will be able to sit in it drinking, sleeping, watching television, or whatever, without a care in the world. There will be no rules to break and no need for police to enforce them. What heaven!

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Show comments
  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Fined for driving too fast. Fined even more for driving too slowly. Persecution of the motorist, worthy of a top 10 ranking on your, “Emigrate, reasons to” list.
    Jack, the Japan Alps Brit

  • davidshort10

    I agree but I’m glad a white van man was done. He will have committed many other motoring offences. And it is not the ‘fast lane’. You can do 70mph in any of the three lanes. I think the time has come to allow undertaking as they do in America. People can simply stick to whatever lane they choose. The overtaking and returning to the inside lane is a good system but as not many people do it (many people even indicate to the left as they return after overtaking when you don’t need to) and will not be educated about it, then we should scrap the system.

    • ButcombeMan

      Undertaking is perfectly legal in the UK a lot of the time but many people do not understand that.

      The Highway code makes rules about, when traffic is moving in defined lines and particularly when on urban motorways (with overhead gantries) it is legal.

      it is NOT legal to move left specifically with the objective of “undertaking”. It is not legal to keep undertaking and swopping lanes right to left and back again..

      I frequently do long motorway journeys and when I can, spend long periods relaxed in the inner lane, often with other drivers nose to tail in the center and outside lane. I frequently undertake the slower traffic in the middle lane and when traffic is very heavy, often move far faster than the lemming traffic in the outside lane.

      I am by no means timid, I just know the rules and apply them to my advantage. Driving in the inside lane takes alertness but often there is far more space around the driver who does that.

      High speed is not the greatest danger on UK motorways, that is tailgating. It does not happen much in the inner lane.

      • davidshort10

        I am happy to read your advice and hope the traffic police agree. I will never undertake just in case.

        • ButcombeMan

          Well sadly you will thus become part of the problem. You will hold up the natural flow of traffic.

          You will realise how wrong you are if you think about a Motorway like the M25, often solid traffic in all lanes, typically more dense in the outside lines.

          Very frequently the inside lane will move faster. often as a consequence of the tailgating in the outside lane.

          Often the flow in the inside lane is smoother because more space is left between vehicles (The key to better traffic flow)

          Perfectly legal to be undertaking in such conditions..

          One driver touches the brakes in the outside lane and there is a wave reaction back down the line of traffic, Such waves can result in some traffic a few hundred yards back maybe coming to a halt. the flow capacity of the road is heavily reduced.

          Most of this is the result of tailgating especially in the outer lanes. Just bad driving. Drivers such as you, hesitant in the inner lane, hold up the flow even further

          In my view the Ministry has been very remiss in not training motorists better by educational films.

          The capacity of motorways, journey times and fuel consumption and emissions can be vastly improved by steady speed driving, less lane changing, greater space between vehicles..

          Sadly for 30 years we have never had a half competent Minister of Transport to address this

          • davidshort10

            You’re right. I had forgotten that it was OK to undertake when lanes are crowded. I am not so sure thought that traffic cops are as well-informed. I tend not to drive much any more in the UK or other countries if I can help it. The UK has 30 million cars; far too many for a population not much more than double that. I hire cars and am also a member of Zipcar. Whenever I go to my native North East, I fly. Madness, I know but it’s cheaper to fly to Newcastle than take the train from London. Then I hire a car at the other end. These days, with price comparison sites, hiring a car is cheaper than using taxis. Last month I paid the equivalent of £25 to hire a car in Malta for five days.

          • ButcombeMan

            Traffic cops may not all know the rules but of course there are few traffic cops now.

            Unfortunately it can come down to a matter of opinion, did you move to the inside lane to undertake etc If a brace of cops decide to fit you up, it will happen.

            So it can be done, but with care. The Ministry has been loath to promote it because some people would switch back and forward so undisciplined are we in the UK.

            It is in fact encouraged by signs saying use the hard shoulder in heavy traffic.


          • itdoesntaddup

            A much more useful post than your first one. Tailgating can cause jams that stretch many miles on a busy motorway, as reaction braking shocks travel in waves through the traffic flow. Reaction braking also occurs when sudden lane changes reduce safety margins for other drivers.

            This is why instead of requiring drivers to stick to the left hand lane except when overtaking, the highway code should require drivers to space themselves out across the available lanes and maintain lane speed. That way the inter vehicle distances are maximised, and

            tailgating minimised. It would also largely prevent trucks spending several miles in a futile attempt to overtake each other, as the overtaking truck would not be maintaining lane speed.

            A big help would be the widespread adoption of adaptive cruise control, which prevents tailgating by maintaining a gap to the vehicle in front, easing off the accelerator automatically rather than braking in the first instance. Some studies suggest that with about 25% adoption, general behaviour of all drivers improves.

          • ButcombeMan

            Please do not attempt to be smart. You are over complicating a simple issue

            You misrepresented what I said in my first post.

            I never said tail gateing did NOT occur in the inner lane, I said it did not happen much. That is true, particularly true with reference to car traffic.

            Of course some lorries do tailgate. I was not writing War and Peace I was commenting on simple, widely misunderstood facts, misunderstood even by some traffic Police Officers and motoring writers.

            I maintain and I am undoubtedly correct, that undertaking, in the inside lane of a motorway, is legal in the UK, quite a lot of the time.

            It always needs care.

            I do not agree with you, that the general requirement to move to the left, except when overtaking, is wrong in principle.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Sorry, but overtaking is not simply driving at a higher speed than someone in another lane (if you have been diverted onto the other carriageway at roadworks and are travelling faster than those left on your original carriageway, are you “overtaking” them?).

            As someone (you?) pointed out earlier, if an inside lane is clearer and can travel faster than a lane to it’s right: It’s legal to do so.

            That doesn’t mean that you can cut fom the middle lane to the inside, undertake a slower vehicle in the middle lane, and then cut back in front of them.

            The exemption is specifically if YOUR LANE is travelling fastER (but NOT fast the last time I checked) than THE LANE to its right!

          • ButcombeMan

            Which is PRECISELY what I said:

            “it is NOT legal to move left, specifically with the objective of “undertaking”. It is not legal to keep undertaking and swopping lanes right to left and back again.”.

            It IS LEGAL to make a journey predominantly in the inner lane and only occasionally pulling to the center lane to overtake very slow moving traffic.

            As a matter of practice, if the lorry in the inner lane is left hand drive, I will occasionally wait until I can move to the outside lane (of three) to go past it, depending on how close that lorry is to the vehicle in front of it.

            I do not overtake a left hand drive lorry in the next lane if that lorry is close to the vehicle in front of it.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Sorry, I don’t want to not-pick, OK, I will anyway, you also said:


            I maintain and I am undoubtedly correct, that undertaking, in the inside lane of a motorway, is legal…….


            And I clarified:


            As someone (you?) pointed out earlier, if an inside lane is clearer and can travel faster than a lane to it’s right: it’s legal to do so.

            That doesn’t mean that you can cut fom the middle lane to the inside, undertake a slower vehicle in the middle lane, and then cut back in front of them……..


            Which is what most people would call “Undertaking” (for cars – as opposed to bicycles which insist on squeezing between railings and turning lorries and being liquefied without necessarily changing lanes).

          • ButcombeMan

            You are mindlessly ranting.

            Bicycles are not allowed on Motorways.

            The discussion is ABOUT Motorways.

            The recent prosecution was about hogging the center lane on a motorway.

            The change in the law was about hogging outer lanes on motorways.

            The silly article under which we post, is about motorways.

          • Mr B J Mann

            That’s why the reference to bicycles was an aside in brackets (after the reference to cars, about the definition of undertaking – generally).

            And *I’M* “mindlessly ranting”?!?!?

          • UKSteve

            Can you stop posting your ignorant and erroneous bu1Lsh1t?


          • itdoesntaddup

            How would you get traffic to drive the M25 if they all tried moving to the left hand lane when not overtaking? It’s absurd. You’d be trying to cram traffic that gets jammed in five lanes into just one.

          • ButcombeMan

            Of course. The “gantry” or “urban motorway” provision.

      • itdoesntaddup

        Tailgating does occur in the left hand lane. It comes in two forms: “drafting” behind trucks to maximise fuel economy (a mode we may well see in automated operation in future, where the automated system will instantaneously respond to the truck braking, rather than waiting for the driver to respond after he is already under the tailgate of the truck – see Volvo’s experiments); and drivers who think they’re being clever (and obeying the Highway Code) in exploiting a gap between trucks, only to find that they’re unable to pull out safely into the next lane to overtake when they reach the truck in front.

      • What is ‘undertaking’?

        • blandings

          As I use it it’s black humour – meet your undertaker

          Overtaking on an inside lane – dangerously unexpected and not safe despite what Butcombe says. My normal response when I encounter it is “WTF!”

      • UKSteve

        “Undertaking is perfectly legal in the UK a lot of the time but many people do not understand that.”

        Foolish nonsense. Try reading something for once.

        • ButcombeMan

          Highway Code
          Section 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
          Since a lot of the time now, many motorways are congested, with all three lanes occupied by heavy traffic, (particularly so in the outside lane where it is frequently dangerous tailgating) it follows that traffic on the left frequently moves faster than other lanes and undertaking, ie passing on the left is absolutely legal . When motorway signs designate use of the hard shoulder at certain busy times, in those conditions the inside lane moving faster than other lanes is virtually guaranteed, Again passing on the left is legal. these conditions now occur very frequently on what are not “urban motorways”.

          I emphasise, Switching lanes to do it is NOT legal. Nor is weaving backwards and forwards to over and undertake…

          • UKSteve

            You haven’t a clue what you’re typing, which is WRONG bilge; it must be time for your meds.

          • ButcombeMan

            Argue with the Highway Code, not me.

            Them is the rules.

            And a direct consequence of the new law, is that if you do move in to comply with it and to avoid prosecution (because there is a substantial space there) and that lane later moves faster, so you “undertake” some vehicles (that have not obeyed the move in rule) and you later need to move out temporarily to overtake a slower vehicle in the inner lane, it will be very hard, almost impossible in fact, to be accused of weaving. unless it is so blatant as to be dangerous.

            The Ministry knows this, it is just desperate to increase the capacity of the existing motorways and keep the traffic moving. Center lane hogging, reduces capacity substantially.

          • UKSteve

            “Center lane hogging, reduces capacity substantially.”

            “Centre” – so you’re talking about the USA? You realise this is a British website?

            The Highway Code is a complete and utter irrelevance, Clueless Fool – it is a guidance leaflet and has F all to do with “rules”

            The CPS is the prosecuting authority here – why don’t you stop posting mentally retarded and erroneous bilge?

            Overtaking on the inside is illegal here – always has been

          • ButcombeMan

            I assure you the CPS cannot bring a prosecution against anyone driving in accordance with the code.The knock on effects of the law change was considered in the Ministry.

            Bluntly. You are wrong.

            Interesting that you resort to aggression, name calling and abuse. On the road that could be an offence.

    • Nicholas_Keen

      Many American states have ‘Keep right except to pass’ laws that apply on 2×2 motorways. Some, New Jersey for instance, have introduced same on all motorways, regardless of the number of lanes. The US motoring press regularly runs articles condemning those who block the passing lane. That said, middle lane cruising inevitably encourages the more rash to weave across to pass on the right, a dangerous practice.

      • Come off it: the rash will weave, no matter what. Nobody should be prohibited from any lane. Only trucks to my knowledge — and I have travelled by road in 35 US states — are sometimes required to keep to the right lane, which is the slowest.

        • Nicholas_Keen

          You are incorrect. If you’re interested I suggest you research traffic laws in NJ, PA and other states.

          • Right lane is the ‘slow lane’ but in the first place there are still min. speeds in that lane and in the second place one is not required to camp there!

          • Nicholas_Keen

            There is no such thing as a slow lane (except for a designated truck climbing lane), no such thing as a fast lane. The right lane is the travel lane, the middle and left lanes are passing lanes, except when the traffic is moving in lines due to volume per NJ regs. (Very similar to the UK.)

          • ‘Travel lane’ = ‘slow[er] lane’.
            The idea that the middle and left lanes are and should be just passing lanes is risible. It would also be unenforceable, as anyone that commutes on I-75, I-10, or any other freeway will appreciate.

  • Mr B J Mann

    While actual middle lane hogging is discourteous, inefficient and can be (ie lead to manoeuvres that are) dangerous, weaving in and out is equally dangerous.

    How often do you see people overtaking someone in the middle lane, cut in nearly ripping off their front bumper, cut into the inside lane nearly clipping a truck, only to find they are about to hit the truck in front, immediately pull back out into the middle lane, only to nearly side-swipe the next lane weaver who has tried to cut in front of you leaving neither you, nor themselves, a safe gap in front and nowhere for the first weaver to go?!?!

    They used to have public information films on the TV warning against being a “Weaver Bird” as well as a “Middle Lane Hog”.

    Whatever happened to them????

    You should clear overtaking lanes only when it is safe to do so.

    ie when there is a gap not only big enough to pull into, but big enough so that you don’t have to immediately pull back out into the path of the car that though it could now accelerate past you.

    And when you aren’t going to, or aren’t likely to, inconvenience or endanger someone coming off a slip road.

    • Roger Hudson

      So prosecute for careless or dangerous driving. Don’t think writing new offences is an answer to poor policing.

      • Mr B J Mann

        Who suggested writing new offenses?!

        In fact, I could have sworn I was suggesting a return to the good old days when the police did actually prosecute for careless or dangerous driving

        When people were actually careless or dangerous driving.

        Rather than breaching some arbitrary and artificial bureaucratic edict.

        Usually quite safely.

    • itdoesntaddup

      You describe exactly why the Highway Code (which these drivers think they’re obeying) is hopelessly out of date for modern traffic conditions. It was written when traffic densities on dual carriageways were at the sort of level you might still find at 5:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

      • Mr B J Mann

        Unfortunately it’s not quite so simple.

        There’s probably still more and better advice in the DoT (or whatever it’s called now) Driving Manual (or whatever they call it now).

        But it’s probably buried by a ton of bovine 3xcr3ta about trams being a much greener choice than driving and you should spend most of your journey checking for cyclists who insist on undertaking (it’s called that for a reason!).

        • They’ve popped it all online, it’s still called the Highway Code, and you can read the bit about trams (no mention about greenness or otherwise) here: https://www.gov.uk/road-works-level-crossings-tramways-288-to-307/tramways-300-to-307

          They cover all sorts of things in quite exquisite detail. I’d like to point at rule 134 for everyone who thinks policing roadworks when the traffic’s gone slow is a good idea – that too is a part of lane discipline. Merge in turn, keep left, and so on – all are quite simple concepts.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Wow, thanks for that, online eh?!

            I’ve got around a dozen paper versions, plus some foreign ones, but I can now get it online!

            And to think I first used a computer in the 60s (no, I’m not that old, it was in primary school!).

            I think you’ll find that the computer based “Highway Code” tests (and training) have included questions on green issues for quite some time now, although I won’t deny they might not actually be “rules” (yet)!

          • Mr B J Mann

            By the way:

            They cover all sorts of things in quite exquisite detail…….. Merge in turn…… – ….quite simple concepts.
            I’d love to hear you cover the “simple concept” of merging three lanes into two in exquisite detail, never mind three lanes into one.
            Perhaps you use an exquisitely simple zip to convey the concept in detail?!?!?!

          • I… erm… don’t need to. It’s all there, in that link. How much detail do you need?

          • Mr B J Mann

            That’s a cracker!

            It’s the way you tell ’em!!!!

            The link link explains how three lanes of trams can merge in turn.


            Just WOW!!!!

            But I’m afraid that STILL doesn’t explain how three lanes of traffic can merge in turn!!!!!

            Never mind how you manage to get a three sided zip-fastener to work?!?!?!?

          • You are indeed correct. The link above is for Trams, whereas I was thinking about Rule 134 which I forgot I hadn’t directly linked to.

            Here’s the link you need: http://lmgtfy.com/?q=highway+code+rule+134

          • Mr B J Mann


            You said:

            “They cover all sorts of things in quite exquisite detail. I’d like to point at rule 134….. – that too is a part of lane discipline. Merge in turn…. – quite simple concepts.”

            And went on to say:

            “It’s all there, in that link. How much detail do you need?”

            Rule 134 says:

            “You should follow the signs and road markings and get into the lane as directed. In congested road conditions do not change lanes unnecessarily. Merging in turn is recommended but only if safe and appropriate when vehicles are travelling at a very low speed, e.g. when approaching road works or a road traffic incident. It is not recommended at high speed.”

            So no advice on HOW to merge in turn, never mind in exquisite detail.

            In fact, all it does it tell you WHEN NOT to!

            Now, explain how you merge in turn to get three lanes into two.

            Never mind three into one!

    • UKSteve

      The article above is horsecookies.

      “In any case, there are limits to what law enforcement can achieve in
      promoting road safety. Drunkenness is generally assumed to be a major
      cause of road accidents, but on motorways it’s responsible for only a
      tiny handful of them. Far more accidents — about 20 per cent of them —
      are caused by tiredness, about which little can be done….”

      The 2 biggest killers on motorways is 1) speed and 2) driving like a cnut. If the latter was a crime, half of the M42 and M25 driver would be on death row.

      On the 25, ever been on the East side of the M25 (for the A12), with all the foriegn-plated cars trying to get to the ferry at Harwich? Kamikaze doesn’t begin to cover it!

      I’m pleased that hogging the centre lane – and tailgating – are now offences. Just a pity they’re not enforced.

      • Mr B J Mann

        And speed in excess of the limit a tiny percentage of that!The 2 biggest killers on motorways is 1) speed ”
        It depends on which studies you look at.
        If it’s a study to prove “Speed Kills!” then 30% of fatalities are down to “speed” (it’s only a third in the US where they include driving BELOW a MINIMUM speed limit!).
        Strangely in any other study where they look at the causes and percentages, eg asleep at the wheel, roadworks, bikers……
        “Speed” is always a tiny percentage.
        And speed in excess of the limit a tiny percentage of that!

        • UKSteve

          Absolute b0ll0cks. You’re on a British website, with completely different factors, including limits



          • CommentTeleView

            You really should read the links you post. What rospa said dovetails with what I said above: inappropriate speed (not high speed) is a moderate factor contributing to collisions, and high speed is a major factor in injuries.

            But lots of other factors are harder to identify, because of their nature. If seat-belts hadn’t been invented, lack of seatbelts would be by far the most significant factor contributing to injuries. But we wouldn’t know that. Fortunately, some people were still looking for alternative ways of cutting down injuries, and invented seat-belts, rather than just campaigning for slower driving. We’re all better off with seatbelts AND the efficiency and convenience of higher speeds.

            Also, given that speed is a nice, easy issue to police and campaign on, let’s not put too much weight on what the government says is the cause of accidents. If it were up to them, I am sure we’d still have the red-flag rule.

          • UKSteve

            No, what you wrote was complete nonsense, what I wrote was wisdom based on scientific research. BOTH of those papers make what you said absolute garbage.

            Read more, type less.

          • CommentTeleView

            Well, if basic comprehension is hard for you, there’s not much more to say. Have a nice life, Steve.

          • UKSteve

            I comprehended it perfectly, which was why I said it was rubbish. It was actually brainless, you trying to go against the scientific research of RoSPA, Hilarious.

          • Mr B J Mann


            You should have gone to ~O^O….::::::Savers!!!

            I hope you don’t drive!!!!!!

            (Other Brands are available!)

          • UKSteve

            You should have gone to Brain Savers.

            I hope you don’t breed!!!!!

            (Far more intelligent specimens are available!)

          • Mr B J Mann

            Please pass the sutures:
            I think my sides have split!!!!!!!!!!

          • UKSteve

            Yeah, mine too. I’m brilliant.

      • CommentTeleView

        Speed is a factor in fatalities, not a cause. There are lots of factors affecting the likelihood of a collision (of which high speed is quite a minor one), and lots of other factors affecting the likelihood of injuries and fatalities (of which high speed is quite a major one). But high speed can be very safe, if we had safer roads, better driver training, better concentration and discipline, safer cars, better visibility, dry road surfaces, less traffic, etc. Low speed limits is an incredibly lazy approach to road safety.

        • UKSteve

          As much nonsense as the post below.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Also, as with any other area of safety, the speed/fatality graph is “U”-shaped:

            Fatalities go up when speeds go too slow because people don’t concentrate on the task in hand and even nod off.

            Plus we don’t drive in a physics lab, but the real world, and while in a physics lab the faster you go the more harm done, in the real world you want to avoid the accident in the first place, and getting people to concentrate on speed isn’t the best way to make the roads safer, in fact it makes them more dangerous!

  • blingmun

    I recently had my first experience driving in a “shared space”, an area of road & pavement without markings used by both cars and pedestrians. What surprised me was how mentally and emotionally draining it was to be driving a ton of metal surrounded by frail human flesh. It made me realise how lazy and falsely reassured I am by the many rules and countless tons of paint vandalising our roads.

    • itdoesntaddup

      You mean you visited the countryside?

  • Roger Hudson

    The law is being totally misused when it comes to motoring. All parking offences are really possible causes of the real offence of ‘obstruction’. As for moving offences the actual crimes are ‘driving without due care and attention’, ‘dangerous driving’, even ‘causing death by dangerous driving’ is really ‘manslaughter’.
    All so-called offences like speeding, texting, tailgating , etc.etc.ad nauseum are really just factors, evidence of the actual offences.
    The police should be arresting people for dangerous or careless driving.

    • CommentTeleView

      I agree in principle. But the problem is that if you don’t have black-and-white criteria defining dangerous or careless driving, it’s hard to prove the actual danger. Unless, of course, there is an accident, by which time someone else has suffered injury. If we know that certain behaviours are really reliable proxies for dangerous or careless driving, it makes a certain amount of sense to prohibit those behaviours directly, which means the state can prosecute without having to prove that the action was dangerous on that specific occasion.

      It irks me to make this side of the argument. I’d like to argue that the state has no business substituting its arbitrary judgment in place of mine. In an ideal world, I should be allowed to judge what speed I drive at, according to the conditions at the time. The state should punish me if I cause actual harm. But if it’s going to punish me for doing things that are merely likely to cause harm, then the most efficient way is to criminalise easily identifiable and measurable behaviours that commonly lead to that harm…

      • Mr B J Mann

        Right up to a point.

        But in the good old days the guidelines for policing speed limits were that they were to be used to facilitate the prosecution of those driving “MARKEDLY” in excess of the safe speed, note NOT the limit, for the road.

        Now they lower the limits and police them with automated cash generators!

        And how often do you see an actual police traffic patrol?!?!?

  • Dodgy Geezer

    …Will the driverless car really know how to change lanes on the motorway
    when it is supposed to? Will it really know when to overtake and when
    not? It will be astonishing if it does….

    It will be astonishing if it does not!

    The driverless car system will need to know everything that is going on around it from its sensors. It will be using optical, infra-red and radar to do positioning. Why should it not also use radio-frequency communication to all the cars in the vicinity, stating its intentions continually to them? They will, of course be doing the same, and so each car will know what all the others want to do. When one wants to move out to increase its average speed, a gap will be created in the outside lane for it. How else would you code this up?

    • Mr B J Mann

      An aircraft landing only has to worry about itself and a fixed object: the ground.

      Plus wind.

      And apparently several crashes have resulted from pilots being unable to over-ride the automated systems, or the automated systems overriding the pilots who actually knew how to fly, and could work out how to fly out of trouble, but weren’t allowed to by the “intelligent” systems.

      The “intelligent” systems only know what the programmers have remembered to teach it!

      • CommentTeleView

        And yet pilot error remains by far the biggest cause of airliner crashes…

        • Mr B J Mann


          And human error probably causes most space disasters.

          But they still rely on humans.

          Funny that.

          When they start having manned spacecraft without humans at the controls:

          Then I’ll start waiting for the technology to be cascaded down to aircraft.

          Until then I’ll be too busy wrestling with my laptop’s problems!

          • CommentTeleView

            Erm… wait until the technology cascades down to aircraft? You do know that aircraft are already perfectly capable of flying without humans, end to end? And we’d most likely be safer without pilots.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Like I said, I’ll wait.

            Plenty to keep me occupied – this dam laptop for example!

          • CommentTeleView

            I’m sure the laptop is supposed to remind us how unreliable computers are, correct? As if that somehow proves your point. But it doesn’t. Pilot error causes more airliner crashes than computer failures do, your laptop’s unreliability notwithstanding.

            And of course you’ll wait, same as everyone else – at the moment the ICAO mandates human pilots.

          • Mr B J Mann

            Yes, but to err is human……

            And it’s also human not to like not being in control.

            And to like no “one” being in control even less!

            (Especially for those who are in a transport union!)

          • CommentTeleView

            Agreed! There is undoubtedly a “squick” factor in knowing there is no-one physically in control of the car/plane/train you’re on.

          • Mr B J Mann

            What’s even worse would be knowing the “pilot” is safe in some control room somewhere and not needing to protect his sorry a$$!

            Which reminds me:

            How come they can fly k!ller drones from the US but need to land them from the side of the Afghan airstrip?

            Anyone would think the signal delay was too long to risk a valuable piece of kit on?!?!?

            Or is the autopilot just not up to it yet!!!!

            Also how come the pilot who bravely misses a schoolhouse and lands in the empty playing field is a hero?!?!?

            Surely the one who bravely misses the full playing field and crashed into the empty schoolhouse is the hero.

            The other one is just saving his sorry a$$.

            Like you’d hope the pilot of your plane would!

          • CommentTeleView

            Well, that’s true, but I don’t think pilots’ fear of crashing is a significant factor in preventing or mitigating accidents. He’d be likely to do his best to avoid a crash even if he were safe in a control room somewhere. Although that scenario seems the worst of both worlds. Either the computer can fly more reliably than a pilot, or it can’t and I want a pilot on board!

          • Mr B J Mann

            By the way, did you read about the pilot error crash over, was it, Brazil, a while back?

            It only happened because the electronic systems were so accurate.

            Leaving the two jets flying bang on the same line from opposite directions to collide instead of having a near miss!!!!!!

            (Although you could argue that it was human error – in the design of the electronic systems!)

    • itdoesntaddup

      Driverless cars will have to be able to operate among normal traffic. Therefore, they will need to operate their signals to convey intentions. They will have the advantage of being able to compute the safety of lane change manoeuvres far more accurately than most drivers. Adaptive cruise control and lane keeping is already a large part of the automation need for motorway driving, and we already have vehicles capable of taking the drudge out of driving in traffic jams.


      If we see road trains of close spaced coupled vehicles these will need other rules. For example, they can’t tailgate to minimise fuel consumption anywhere near a junction so as to let other traffic on and off at the junction. In reality, such behaviour is best suited to adapted rail lines turned into driverless trucking routes.

      • CommentTeleView

        Agreed that human-driven cars will be one of the major problems of implementing driverless cars. But I think the end goal has to be automated traffic only – that’s when the major benefits can be reaped.

        IF we had a completely driverless infrastructure, there is no reason we couldn’t have very high speeds (travelling speeds of 100 km/h in towns, say, and several hundred km/h on intercity routes). Intersections negotiated by computers could be so efficient that there would be no need for stopping, or even slowing down significantly – just a small adjustment to the speed of the two vehicles so that a collision is avoided.

        That kind of speed and efficiency means journey times an order of magnitude less than today’s equivalent. And shorter journey times, along with multiple passengers, will slash the amount of traffic on the road at any given time – again, by an order of magnitude. The lack of congestion will contribute to the possibility of higher speeds and less need for collision avoidances. All a virtuous circle!

        But the old bloke pottering along in his vintage car is going to be a real fly in the ointment. As with computer infrastructure, when a substantially better technology comes along, at some point you have to sweep out the old stuff completely, in order to get the full benefit of the new stuff.

        • itdoesntaddup

          I think the infrastructure required for your vision is too much for quite some time yet. Much can be achieved by giving vehicles autonomy, and operating under simple rules that allow higher traffic densities to be accommodated with improved flow efficiency. Also, I think that more effort will go into minimisation of journeys via optimal routeing and siting of facilities. If work is next door to school, the school run and the commute are the same journey for instance. Likewise we shouldn’t all be expected to drive to supermarkets: door to door delivery involves far less traffic. There is still a world beyond the big cities.

          • CommentTeleView

            I don’t think the infrastructure is the biggest problem (although I’m not saying it’s trivial). The problem is how to migrate from a human-driver system to a completely driverless system. The intermediate mixed scenario is the worst of both worlds in many respects, and adds a huge amount of complexity to the requirements of driverless cars.

            I suspect we already have the technology to make and operate a pretty safe and efficient driverless fleet, if we could implement it as a standalone infrastructure. But human-driven cars would be unpredictable mobile obstacles.

            There are vast benefits to a fully automated system – dramatic fuel savings, shorter journey times, intelligent routing, intelligent/commercialised journey prioritizing, synchronised negotiation of junctions, ad-hoc “trains” to reduce drag, reduced carbon emissions, lower operating costs, improved safety, etc. But the bulk of these can’t be fully realised until we have a way of eliminating the weak link of human operators.

            Incidentally, I can’t see big wins in re-siting facilities. Who would decide what goes where? What if I work somewhere far from the school? Which one should move, and won’t that screw someone else?

            Arguably, one of the big failings of mass-transit is that the hub-and-spoke design forced more businesses to be in big cities, which forced more people to live around big cities, which forced more business into the cities, etc. A “public” fleet of roaming automated cars, summoned at will, but able to be shared efficiently because the system has a complete picture of current destinations being requested, is not at all hub-and-spoke. Hopefully that would lead to settlements based on human wants and needs, not the needs of transport.

          • Mr B J Mann

            But you’ve missed out on another aspect of the human factor – politics!

            If you supposedly try to reduce traffic in city centres by discouraging driving by restricting parking so that traffic spends half its time circling for a space you double traffic.

            If you try to discourage motoring by closing off half of the streets or pedestrianizing roads or making them bus only you double traffic on the remaining ones.

            If you do both then that’s 2×2=4 times the traffic.

            If you try to restrict traffic by making motorists go the long way round, with one way systems, restricted turn junctions, etc, and, say make traffic go four times as far (just making it go round the other three sides of the block makes it go three times as far) then you quadruple traffic.

            If you slow traffic down to the speed of the horse and cart, 7-8mph, to discourage drivers, by mis-phased lights, endless reds on pelicans, traffic “calming”, etc, when it could be doing a steady 30 in a green wave, you also quadruple traffic.

            If you do both you increase traffic by 4×4=16 times.

            If you do all four that’s 2x2x4x4=64 times the traffic!

            What makes you think the authorities want to improve things?!

            Oh, and how much traffic forced through city centres doesn’t even want to be there, but is trying to get to the next city centre, or the one after that?

            Say it’s just half.

            So that’s 2x2x4x4x2=128!

            And, no, by-passes and motorways don’t clog up because they spontaneously generate traffic like insects from medieval mud.

            It’s because they are only designed to carry the traffic on the existing (gridlocked) road, plus the expected increase over the next 20 to 40 years (by definition almost none if it’s gridlocked and actually being considered for an upgrade).

            But once it’s opened all the traffic that had been avoiding the old road, and which the new one hadn’t been designed for, reverts to the new one, and clogs it up again.

            So congestion isn’t caused by too many cars (that’s like saying congested arteries are caused by too much blood!):

            It’s caused, again, by the authorities!

            The same ones people think are going to introduce new solutions!!!

          • CommentTeleView

            Absolutely! That’s a rarely grasped concept. I was amused to read a government report saying that “traffic throughput actually increases when the traffic travels at 40mph than at 60mph”. Their conclusion was that a lower speeds is a good thing because it increases throughput.

            But throughput is a measure of the amount of traffic passing a given point per unit time. At peak hours, speeds drop because there’s lots of traffic. So of course if you measure a whole lot of instances of speed vs. throughput, there will be a correlation. The report just got the cause and effect the wrong way around.

            In an ideal world, there would be policies and road designs that encourage higher speeds, which, as you point out, would make journeys quicker (which is what individuals want), and would decrease congestion. Throughput would remain unchanged.

        • Mr B J Mann

          “As with computer infrastructure, when a substantially better technology comes along, at some point you have to sweep out the old stuff completely, in order to get the full benefit of the new stuff.”

          Ah, but who decides what is “a substantially better technology”?

          When cars came along (actually, the motor car came along at about the same time, and the “car” goes back four Millennia, but who’s counting?) did they have to sweep out the old stuff like bicycles (and pedestrians) completely, in order to get the full benefit of the new stuff?

          Actually, they gave the pedestrians a red flag and told them to walk in front of the cars.

          Then they decided to be a bit more accommodating and just put bicycles in front of the cars at every junction.

          (Okay, they also told the pedestrians to reclaim the roads and gave them new-fangled near permanent push button controlled electronic red flags they renamed “Pelican Crossings”!)

    • Dominic Stockford

      We already have almost driverless cars – they run in packs and people call them trains. Jolly good they are too.

      • Mr B J Mann

        Except that they need miles and miles of track between the packs.

        And miles and miles of room to stop.

        And tons of maintenance (literally – apparently a large proportion of “freight” is ballast for track maintenance!)

        And loads of subsidy.

        And even after all the subsidy they STILL cost miles more than cars, well, the same on a long run, but miles more than coaches.

        Despite the £50 BILLION in road related taxes levied every year on road traffic!

        But, apart from that, they are jolly good.

        Oh, except you usually need road transport to get to and from the station!

        But, apart from that, they are jolly good.

        Or did you mean road trains?!

        • Dominic Stockford

          “But, apart from that, they are jolly good.”

          So much better than so many other places.

      • CommentTeleView

        Trains are abysmal. Mass transit is extremely inflexible, trains being the worst.

        Once it’s built, it defines where people want to go. It relies on, and encourages, concentrations of people and facilities, leaving little room for individual choice.

        It’s a scheduled, hub-and-spoke type of transport, not an ad-hoc, end-to-end one. So it becomes highly inefficient and inconvenient unless your starting point and destination, and the time of day you want to travel, have been predicted by the designers and operators, and coincide with the needs of a sufficient number of other users.

        It’s only slightly scalable, and is very expensive to run at off-peak times, so trains just stop running when there’s too little demand.

        In the case of trains and trams, a small obstacle or problem with the infrastructure can’t just be bypassed. A special event taking place away from the normal routes can’t be catered for. Natural changes to a city, such as an increase or decrease in the popularity of a particular area, must be “planned” or predicted, or they will have no train/tram service whatsoever.

        The only way trains have (or ever will) become a first choice of travellers, is by taxing and regulating and throttling road transport until rail has looked (or will look) attractive by comparison.

        • Dominic Stockford

          The trains in this country are, compared with most countries throughout the world, great.

          • CommentTeleView

            That’s very true – trains are a very ill-conceived form of transport, implemented much better in this country than in most.

  • andylowings

    I like to stay safe in the middle lane, and always have done. Everyone knows I drive like that. Those silly-billies swooping in and out doing 60 or 70 mph should know better.

    • UKSteve

      Everyone knows I drive like that.”

      Like a tw4t, you mean?

      • andylowings

        I think you’ll find when you’ve been driving as long as I have, that keeping well to the middle of the road is the best and safest way to motor.

        • UKSteve

          I doubt it, but that’s the most moronic way to “motor”.

          And now, thankfully and eventually, illegal. If they kept morons of the road, the UK’s roads would be half empty, leaving us IAM motorists to go about our business without borderline psychos almost kill us with their idiocy.

          • Mr B J Mann


            Wasn’t one of their branches taken over by an anti car activist?!?!

          • UKSteve


          • Mr B J Mann

            Actually, I’m pretty sure the answer is Yes.

            I just can’t be posteriored to try to dig out the evidence.

          • UKSteve

            So…..no, then. I’m pretty sure you’re deluded.

  • LindaJStone

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  • Dominic Stockford

    All lorries should be confined to the left hand lane, along with all cars pulling caravans and trailers.

  • Shawn Rahoon

    Nonsence, undertaking or passing on inside or overtaking on inside is not illegal on UK motorways.People should not be taking and believing myths past on from their elders and read the Highway Code.

    If a driver in the driving lane is passing on inside lane while hogger decides to move back into lane 1 and collides then it is the hogger who is totally at fault. It IS an offence to lane hog.

    As far as “fast lanes’ are concerned, there is no such lane as any lane can be driving faster than any other.