Motorway madness was a term used in the UK to describe the cause of carnage on the motorways normally due to drivers travelling too fast in thick fog. In space of one recent week I witnessed one piece of daftness and another incident that just defied belief, but more on this later
Motorways are said to be the safest form of driving conditions in much the same way that air travel is the safest of all mile for mile.
Air travel is safe over long distances because the biggest dangers are at take-off, landing and when passing or joining junctions. Many of us think that the sky is empty and planes can fly where they like. Well no, when an air cadet I learned that the sky has corridors for airline travel, basically so that planes can be marshalled but perhaps more importantly to avoid the top guns of the military from hurtling into them.
The parallels between air travel and driving on motorways are similar in that the biggest danger is when joining or leaving, passing junctions and getting in the way of other vehicles. Typically, the motorway network in Spain is excellent with hold ups due to accidents and road works mercifully rare. But I am staggered at the way some junction have been designed with very short slip lanes, scissor crossings in abundance and entrances where you join the fast lane! Scary or what?
Like many of you, I have driven on motorways all over Europe also in America at 50 MPH with many lanes, good junctions and little danger. The autobahns are frightening with speeding porches hanging off your rear end before disappearing into the distance at 200 MPH. Driving on the Perifique in Paris with a caravan in tow was an eye opener. Turning over a caravan on the M4 was memorable as was driving past a dead body on the M42
My scariest moment in Spain was when driving north past Murcia just after dark. I was on high alert due to the amount of traffic shifting lanes, performing high speed undertakes and trying to use the congested on and off slips. In the distance I saw a car without lights at the end of a slip waiting to join my lane; I eased off a bit just in case but could not change lanes due to traffic on my left. About 20 meters from him he did the unthinkable and pulled out; no time to think, I just chucked my car left on instinct and have no idea to this day how I didn’t have a collision
Driving on motorways
So how should we drive on motorways? Aircraft follow a strict protocol to prevent them getting too close, so leave a good distance between you and the vehicle in front, two second minimum is about right. Pull out to overtake in sufficient time to maintain the aggregate speed and avoid being boxed in then move in again after passing. Indicate always to let other vehicles know what you are up to. Fast or middle lane hoggers; don’t be so bloody selfish; you are not the only ones on the road!
On entry and exit it is vital to allow plenty of time to adjust to the speed differences and join without having to boot it or slowing down the advancing traffic. Essentially if you can learn to leave as much space around you as you can, there will be time to react to changing circumstances
Ever been in slow traffic and later wondered what the problem was? Research has shown that this is due to a sluggish vehicle ahead or one slowly joining the motorway. The following drivers back off perhaps because not enough space was left for smooth overtaking and the decelerations ripples backwards at an increasing (or decreasing ?) rate so that those at the back are crawling along. Odd eh?
If you use toll roads, consider getting a “Via T“zapper that allows you to be charged monthly for toll use. These are available from your bank and are cost equal. No queuing behind people scrabbling for loose change and if your car is right hand drive, no more contortions to pay the attendant
On an aircraft you are a captive audience so have to put up with the mediocre food and high prices. Service stations in Spain are not yet at the rip-off level in the UK but still charge above average; however the quality and choice is generally good. The biggest danger at motorway services is being robbed when you leave the car, so keep those valuables out of sight and avoid being distracted by pretty girls or ugly muggers. If you have developed a puncture you are probably about to be robbed, so leave someone in the car with the doors locked whilst you undertake the repair.
The hard shoulders over here are fairly narrow and potentially more dangerous than in other countries. If you have to stop on one, call the breakdown truck from your mobile if possible rather than take a dangerous walk to the emergency phones; every Spanish insurance company provides details of this inclusive service. Do not get out of the car if anyone else is around as they may be up to no good; though to be safe from another vehicle ramming into you, you should exit the car and step to the safe side of the crash barrier
So what did I see that triggered off this article? When driving by a city, I passed two young fellas ambling along the narrow shoulder trying to hitch a lift; who in their right mind was going to stop for them? But the piece de resistance was when passing a large expat urbanisation. Despite having seen no broken down vehicles I saw a man with ginger hair, so he probably wasn’t native with a female companion pushing a toddler in a wheelchair. Short on brains, short sighted or just taking a short cut to death. True motorway madness