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On this month’s Crimecall Garda Adrian Corcoran was in studio to deliver a road safety message in relation to motorway driving. Every day in Ireland, thousands of commuters are using our growing motorway network. All major cities in Ireland are now connected by motorway. Although motorways are statistically the safest way of moving large volumes of traffic, there are still risks to drivers who use them. The higher speeds on motorways mean that things can happen very quickly – a moment’s lapse of concentration could have severe consequences.  Adrian discussed the different categories that are not permitted while using the motorway. 

You must not enter a motorway if: 

  • You are a learner driver or do not hold a full licence for the category of vehicle you are driving;
  • Your vehicle cannot travel at a speed of at least 50 km per hour;
  • Your vehicle has an engine capacity of 50cc or less;
  • Your vehicle does not have inflated tyres;
  • You are walking, cycling or moving animals;
  • You drive a motorised wheelchair. 

Motorway Speed Limit 

 The maximum speed limit on a motorway is 120km per hour unless:

  • - There are signs stating another speed limit, for example, warning signals to highlight road works, or
  • - You are driving a vehicle that is subject to a lower limit such as a bus or truck. 

Lane Discipline

The basic principle is that you should always drive in the left lane (lane 1) unless you need to overtake a slower vehicle or vehicles, or unless the lane is blocked. Once you have finished overtaking, move from the right lane (lane 2) back into the left lane as soon as it is safe to do so. On a three lane motorway, there is an extra overtaking lane (lane 3), but you should still keep left as much as possible i.e. don’t drive in the right lane if the middle lane (lane 2) is empty, or in the middle lane if the left lane is empty.

When changing lanes, you should only move one lane at a time, treating each one as an individual manoeuvre. Never drive straight across a lane to get to the next one. You should only pass a slower vehicle on the right ensuring to keep the vehicle you are overtaking to your left, unless traffic is moving in slow queues and the traffic queue on your right is travelling more slowly than you are. Passing on the left in normal traffic flow is known as undertaking and can be very dangerous.

Do not use the outside lane if you are driving:

  • A goods vehicle with a design gross weight of more than 3,500 kilogrammes such as a lorry or heavy goods vehicle (HGV);
  • A passenger vehicle with seating for more than eight passengers such as a bus; or
  • A vehicle towing a trailer, horsebox or caravan.

When driving on a Motorway

Over the past number of years, we have had a number of serious incidents caused by vehicles driving the wrong way on a motorway.

Take care when joining a motorway to ensure you are travelling in the correct direction, especially if you are in an unfamiliar location.

You must drive ahead. You are not allowed to turn or reverse. It is an offence to drive against the flow of traffic on a motorway. 

If you find yourself driving against the flow of traffic, pull in immediately to the hard shoulder and stop. Contact the Gardai by dialling 999. Do not attempt to turn your vehicle. Wait for help in a safe place. If you see somebody driving in the wrong direction call 999 immediately.       

If you miss your exit continue to the next exit and come back on the other side of the motorway. Never attempt to reverse back against the flow of traffic.

If you take the wrong exit continue moving ahead where you can re-join the motorway, never attempt to reverse back to the motorway.

Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. Leave a bigger gap when you are driving on wet or icy roads or in fog.

You must not drive on the hard shoulder as it is an offence to do so and you could get penalty points.

Do not stop or park on the motorway except in an emergency or when you are told to do so by the emergency services or Gardai. If you breakdown move your vehicle to the hard shoulder where possible. Call the Gardai noting that they will require information about your location. You and all passengers should then wait for help on the embankment side of the motorway well behind the crash barrier.  

Toll Plazas

When approaching a toll, reduce your speed appropriately. Always leave a safe gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front. All toll roads in Ireland, with the exception of the M50 eFlow barrier-free tolling system, are managed by a conventional barrier operated toll plaza. For these toll roads, the toll payment options are;

  • Manual lanes with a toll booth attendant;
  • Automatic coin machine lanes;
  • Payment by electronic toll tag.

If you enter an incorrect lane at the toll plaza do not reverse against the flow of traffic on the motorway. Continue moving forward and press the help button at the booth and an attendant will assist you. If using the automatic coin machine lane have your coins ready prior to entering the motorway.

When you are leaving a motorway

You will normally leave the motorway by a slip road to your left. You should watch out for the signs below that let you know that you are getting near your exit. Move safely into the left-hand lane or lane 1 well before reaching your exit.


Motorway driving offences and penalty points