Less than a quarter of UK drivers stick to the inside lane of a motorway, it has been revealed.
Data collected by insurance firm Direct Line, which analysed more than 70 hours of motorway footage, found that drivers ‘blatantly’ ignored the Highway Code, which states “You should always drive in the left-hand lane when the road ahead is clear.”
A poll by the car insurance firm found that just 23 per cent of motorists said they followed the rule and 43 per cent admitted to driving in the middle lane despite the inside lane being free. Meanwhile, nearly half of the 2,004 people polled – 49 per cent – said they weren’t even aware that they could be prosecuted for the offence.
Careless driving is punishable by a £100 on the spot fine by the police. In the most extreme cases drivers can also be prosecuted which could see them hit with between three and nine points on their driving licence and fine of up to 175 per cent of their weekly income.
Director of car insurance Rob Miles said: “Our analysis of traffic flows shows that millions of drivers risk prosecution by travelling in the middle and outside lanes when the inside lanes are entirely clear.
“It’s important that we increase awareness of the rules and penalties, primarily because they exist to keep road users safe, but also because drivers face serious fines and endorsements that will stay on their record for four years.
“Many motorists claim they want to avoid changing lanes to overtake, but this is a crucial skill and in-car technologies such as blind spot and safe distance warnings can help drivers to travel safely.
“Academics also believe that middle-lane hogging can increase congestion, as in moderately busy periods people can be trapped in the left-hand lane, unable to overtake slower-moving traffic.”
The news comes as it was revealed that where data was available just over 2,000 drivers were fined for careless driving during 2016.
Research by comparison site Confused.com found that motorists weren’t being stopped by police for committing the offence, which includes tailgating, middle-lane hogging, undertaking and driving too slowly.
Freedom of information request responses from 16 forces found that 2,012 drivers fell foul of the offence. The other 29 forces failed or refused to reply to the information request.
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said of middle-lane hogging: “It’s a difficult crime to catch in the act, and so-called ‘smart’ motorways have yet to address the issue, which contributes to congestion and accidents – not something drivers want to be faced with on their already-busy commute to work.
“Hopefully, allowing learner drivers to practise on motorways from 2018 will be a step towards reducing the number of tailgaters and middle-lane hoggers on our roads.”
Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, said: “All road users and pedestrians are aware of the ever-present menace of dangerous driving on UK roads. Increased enforcement is required to deliver the expectation that if you drive dangerously you will be caught.
“The penalty points system should also ensure that drivers who reach 12 points are automatically disqualified, protecting road users and ensuring that the law acts as a true deterrent to dangerous driving.”