Is middle-lane hogging ever justified?

It’s one of the UK’s biggest pet peeves when it comes to motorway driving. Despite the introduction of laws to make it illegal, ‘middle-lane hogging’ is still a regular occurrence across the country. But the question is, can it ever be justified? We’ve gathered the facts!

Why is middle-lane hogging a problem?

If, like us, your driving theory test feels like many moons ago, here’s a refresher on the Highway Code’s official rules of three-lane motorway driving:

“You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear. If you are overtaking a number of slow-moving vehicles, you should return to the left-hand lane as soon as you are safely past.”

Put simply, if you’re driving in the middle-lane when there aren’t any vehicles in the left-hand lane to overtake, you could be classed as a ‘middle-lane hogger’. But why is it a bad thing? Well, it’s technically categorised as ‘careless driving’ and you could receive a £100 on-the-spot fine as well as three penalty points. The main reason for this is that it leads to unnecessary congestion by causing traffic to cluster in the middle and outside lanes. It can also lead to drivers undertaking in the inside lane, which although not illegal, can be extremely dangerous.

It can be infuriating when you’re correctly driving in the left-hand lane and find yourself catching up with someone hogging the middle lane. It would mean you would have to move across two lanes to overtake the lane hogger and then move two lanes yet again to go back in the inside lane. It’s no wonder it’s one of driving’s biggest frustrations.

Is it ever justified to stay in the middle-lane?

Despite the problems caused by middle-lane hogging, there are occasions when it could be safer for you and other road users to stay in the middle-lane.

One of these times is when you are approaching a slip road joining the motorway. Whilst any traffic joining the motorway is required to give way to vehicles already on the motorway, it may be helpful to move into the middle lane to give cars room to join.

If you are approaching a junction and have just overtaken a car on the inside lane, it may also be worth remaining in the middle lane until you have passed the slip road and it is safe to move back into the inside lane.

You could also find there are cars stranded on the hard shoulder, in this scenario it could be worth driving in the middle lane just in case any passengers step onto the carriageway or the vehicle expectedly pulls out.

Although it can be tempting to tailgate the middle-lane hogger in front of you or undertake them in the inside-lane, the best (and safest!) way to react is to stay calm and overtake them when safe to do so. Alongside the fixed penalties, the government has also introduced optional motorway lessons for learners to help educate drivers on the importance of lane discipline. 

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