As a professional taxi driver you’ll have no worries about driving on motorways during your working day. Indeed, motorways are statistically the safest type of roads in the UK, accounting for 20% of traffic but just 6% of fatalities. But it still pays to read up on how to stay safe when using them.

 

Read on to find out everything you need to know about Smart motorways, night-time driving and what you should do in the event of a breakdown. And if you do suffer an incident or breakdown, your insurance for your taxi will be there to help.

 

Get up to date on Smart motorways

 

So-called Smart motorways have had some seriously bad press in recent years. Supporters claim that drivers save many hours of sitting in traffic jams and there are less accidents. However, detractors are still unconvinced by their safety record, with many people of the opinion that Smart motorways are more dangerous than conventional motorways.

 

Smart motorways increase capacity and reduce congestion by using the hard shoulder as a live lane and using variable speed limits to control traffic flow. But some drivers and motoring organisations feel the loss of the hard shoulder puts users at serious risk of death and injury. According to figures obtained by the BBC’s Panorama programme a total of 38 people were killed on Smart motorways in the five years up to 2019.

 

While the government and Highways England argue that Smart motorways are safe, it’s clear this is dependent on motorists understanding how to use them correctly. So, here are some golden rules from Highways England on how to use Smart motorways safely:

 

  • Never drive in a lane indicated with a red X. It means that the lane is closed to traffic. Ignoring a red X is extremely dangerous. If you’re caught then you’ll receive an automatic £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence. Particularly risky for a person who drives for a living.
  • Stick to the speed limits shown on the signs. Speed cameras are always present on Smart motorways. Recent sentencing guidelines mean the most serious speeding offenders can face fines of up to £2,500 if caught on a motorway.
  • The hard shoulder is easily identified by a solid white unbroken line. If there’s no speed limit displayed on the gantry above it or a red X is displayed, it should not be used except in an emergency.
  • A normal live lane is identified by a broken white line. If you see a red X above it then do not enter the lane.
  • If your taxi is experiencing difficulties and the hard shoulder is being used as an extra lane, use the designated emergency area when possible. Or, if you can, exit the motorway immediately and find a safe place to stop and put your hazards on.
  • If you break down, always put your hazard lights on immediately.

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Remind yourself of stopping distances

 

When you’re driving at the higher motorway speeds it’s all too easy to forget just how much space you need to give other cars so you’ll have time to stop. It’s vital you always leave enough distance between your taxi and the vehicle in front. If they suddenly slow or stop you need to be able to pull up safely.

 

Allow at least a two-second gap between your taxi and the vehicle in front. This gap usually equates to at least four car lengths when travelling at motorway speed. However, in wet, icy or foggy conditions you’ll need to leave even more of a gap. Whatever happens, always drive at a speed appropriate for the weather conditions if you want to avoid a crash.

 

Remember, even if you’re not badly injured in an accident the consequences could still be serious. For example, if your taxi needs repairing – or worse, if your taxi was written off due to the damage – you could be put out of work for days or even weeks.

 

Stay aware of dangers ahead

 

As any good driver knows, you need to be alert to what’s happening further down the motorway. At such high speeds if there’s trouble far ahead then it can soon impact you if you don’t take appropriate action fast enough.

 

A recent investigation by motoring magazine Auto Express set out the shocking number of offences committed by users of the UK’s motorways. They asked 28 police forces about motorway offences and found that nearly 18,000 tickets had been issued in the past five and a half years. The large majority of tickets were issued for making illegal stops or driving on the hard shoulder.

 

But it’s the less common offences that are perhaps more worrying. A total of 165 people received tickets for driving the wrong way on a motorway, while 204 were caught driving the wrong way on slip roads. A shocking 82 drivers were even ticketed for making U-turns on motorways. With drivers like these, you need to keep your eyes peeled and have appropriate taxi insurance in place.

 

And, for the avoidance of doubt, pulling up on a hard shoulder to wait for an airport fare is not an appropriate use of the hard shoulder!

 

Avoid getting a driving conviction by following the rules of the road. After all, a conviction for even a minor offence can have a big impact on your insurance premium. Some insurers may even refuse to offer cover at all!

 

Be vigilant when joining and leaving the motorway

 

One of the riskiest times for any taxi driver is when you (or other motorway users) are joining or leaving the motorway. In both situations a moment's lack of concentration can lead to trouble. Here are a few things to bear in mind in these situations:

 

  • While drivers already on the motorway have priority, if there's space for you to move over to let someone join the motorway then you should do so.
  • Drivers who are nervous about joining a busy motorway may well slow down suddenly or even stop as they reach the end of the slip road. Be watchful of this hazard.
  • Slip roads can sometimes become the left-hand lane of the motorway. If this is the case, stay in the lane until it’s fully joined the motorway.
  • Even experienced drivers can make mistakes when it comes to finding the right exit junction. If you’re unsure, leave plenty of time to move into the left-hand lane before reaching the exit.
  • When you’re leaving the motorway, keep a careful eye on your speed. After driving at 70mph for many miles, even after you slow down you might still be travelling faster than you think.

Joining motorway

Take extra care when driving at night

 

From early morning airport runs to revellers travelling home from a night out there are many times you’ll find yourself on a motorway in the dark. While night time driving is bread and butter for many experienced taxi drivers, you need to take extra care nonetheless. Just because there’s less traffic doesn’t mean there’s less danger.

 

Road casualty statistics show that around 40% of road accidents occur at night. While nearly a third of road injuries and deaths occur during this time. Keep the following in mind:

 

  • The long, straight, and rather boring roads found on the motorway at night can lull you into a false sense of security.
  • Not all motorways are lit at night. According to Highways England figures this may even have led to a significant increase in deaths and serious injuries.
  • Tiredness can hit at any time of day, but at night it is a particular risk for drivers. The Highway Code advises you to take a 15-minute break for every two hours you’re driving.
  • When driving at night, use the colour of the reflective studs to help guide you. These are red for the hard shoulder, amber for the central reservation, white for the mid-lane division, and green for the slip road.

 

Check your tyres – and keep on top of other maintenance matters

 

Vehicle maintenance is a big part of a taxi driver’s working life. Because, if your car is not in the best condition then it’ll soon start to hit your pocket. As well as the potential problem of breakdown it could also leave you open to accidents. With typical driving shifts lasting anything between eight and 12 hours having worn, damaged or incorrectly inflated tyres is a danger you really don’t need in your life.  

 

From understanding the new tyre safety labelling to checking tread depth, taking care of your tyres is only one part of keeping you and your passengers safe on the road. Having the right taxi insurance in place is also a vital part of any healthy taxi business.

Tyre check

Don’t let yourself become distracted

 

Getting on with passengers is a great way to both pass the time and ensure repeat business. However, if it distracts you from the road ahead then it might be wise to cut down on the chat.

 

The invention of the sat nav has undoubtedly been good news for many busy taxi drivers. However, if you need to change the destination on your sat nav during a ride, make sure you stop first to do so. Your passengers won’t thank you for taking your eyes off the road to fiddle with the sat nav. After all, they’re paying you to get them to their destination in one piece!

Be prepared in the event of breakdown

 

If you break down on a motorway then it can be difficult to get help. Highways England has plenty of advice about driving safely on motorways. If you breakdown, they advise drivers to:

 

  • Leave at the closest junction or service area. If there isn’t one, move onto the hard shoulder or nearest emergency area.
  • If you’re not able to do that, move into the left-hand lane and put your hazard warning lights on. Don’t put out a warning triangle or attempt to repair the taxi yourself.
  • Use the passenger side doors to get everyone out of the vehicle. Try to get over the safety barrier and on to the verge. Keep well clear of your vehicle and any moving traffic at all times. If there’s no emergency phone nearby, then call 999 immediately.
  • If your vehicle stops unexpectedly and it isn’t safe to get out, keep your seatbelt and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.

 

Keep warm clothes, a hi-vis jacket and a torch in your taxi in case of a breakdown. After all, not all breakdowns happen on a warm, sunny day in good weather! Also make sure you have any medication you need, a charged mobile phone, and food and water with you at all times.

Don’t forget personal safety

 

In addition to the on-the-road risks, there’s still the threat of being attacked by a passenger or member of the public. Taxi drivers often work at unsociable times, when people can be more unpredictable.

 

We have lots of advice for keeping safe as a taxi driver, including:

  • Keep cash to a minimum.
  • Fit a screen.
  • Install a CCTV system.
  • Fit a convex mirror.
  • Agree fares beforehand.
  • Build a relationship with your passengers.

Protecting your business with taxi insurance

 

For taxi drivers the vehicle you drive is a significant investment in both time and money, so never drive them without the proper insurance cover. Whether driving on busy motorways, congested city streets, or quiet country roads, your treasured vehicle can be vulnerable to road traffic accidents and damage.

 

But it’s not only your vehicle that comes under a lot of pressure over the course of a working day, so do you! That’s why the knowledgeable team of insurance specialists at Taxi Insurer is always looking to come up with ways to help out.

 

The taxi insurance we can arrange comes in many different forms and can cover everything from single vehicles to entire fleets. Public liability insurance and employers’ liability insurance can also usually be added.

 

We can also offer no claims bonus protection and a 24-hour claims management service.

 

Call us now for a quote for taxi insurance today.

 

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.

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