Did You Know: Hogging the Middle Lane is Illegal? (And Rightly So!)


Britain’s motorways are some of the busiest in Europe, with a constantly high density of traffic. Isn’t it odd, then, that one lane found on every motorway around the country is so under-used? I am referring, of course, to the left-hand lane.

This, as every qualified driver surely knows, is where much of the traffic should mostly be. The other lanes, which of course vary in number, are all for overtaking. Who mentioned the fast lane? Well, don’t. I know it’s a pedantic point, but officially there isn’t one. Every lane other than the inside one is designed for overtaking, not for cruising.

Not that many of the drivers populating our motorways seem to pay much respect to that fact. Last weekend I drove 400 miles on four motorways: the M25, M3, M4 and M5. A couple of weeks before that it was a 550 miles round trip on the M1 and M6. Throughout those long distances and long hours on a variety of M roads, the left-hand lane was mostly the emptiest one. All too often there were long convoys of cars travelling very rapidly in the outside lane with big empty gaps on their left.

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Lane Hogging Fines Are Now In Place

Eighteen months ago, in August 2013, fines were introduced for lane-hoggers. Rightly so, as those who cruise obliviously in the wrong lane and prevent others from overtaking are a major cause of frustration – with obvious safety implications. Research into driver opinion after the new penalties were introduced found that 52 per cent of motorists knew that hogging a central lane was illegal.

That in itself was quite shocking, suggesting that almost one in two motorists were unaware of doing anything wrong by stubbornly staying in a central lane when another further left was available for use. Also shockingly, 59 per cent admitted to being guilty of staying in the wrong lane when not actually overtaking

The M4 near Slough was identified as the location where the highest incidence of lane-hogging was happening. Maybe so, but it is by no means alone as a wrong lane pinch-point. There are also plenty of culprits on just about every motorway around the UK.

Lane-hogging is one of two bad driving habits that have been identified as causing the most annoyance on the roads – tailgating is the other. Both are illegal but enforcement is rare and the bad behaviour is still all too prevalent. Let’s all vow not to be amongst the irritating culprits.




Sue Baker is a seasoned motoring journalist with a love of all things automotive.