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.

In the same way that your car needs to be in good condition, you also need to be fit and alert to drive on a motorway. The higher speeds on motorways mean that things can happen very quickly – a moment’s lapse of concentration could have severe consequences. Prepare for your journey properly and plan where you can take a break from driving.

Before you begin a motorway journey, make sure your vehicle
• Is fit to carry out the journey at motorway speeds,
• Has the correct tyre pressure,
• Has enough oil and coolant, and,
• Has enough fuel to at least take you to the next service station,
Also make sure that any loads carried or towed are secure and that you have enough money or a suitable pass if you are using a tolled motorway.

Motorway Information Signs
All motorway signs are blue. The following table identifies the most common signs and what they mean.

Motorway speed limits
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.
Remember your total stopping distance at 120km per hour in dry conditions is 107.5 metres (27 car lengths). This is about the length of a soccer pitch.

Towing a trailer
Drive at the right speed. The maximum legal speed limit for a vehicle towing a trailer is 80km per hour. Depending on the width of your trailer you may need to fit extension mirrors to your car to make sure you can see the road behind you when your trailer is attached. Ensure your load is evenly distributed to reduce the chance of the trailer swaying, especially in high winds or when large vehicles overtake you.

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 50km per hour;
• your vehicle has an engine capacity of 50cc or less;
• your vehicle does not use inflated tyres;
• you are walking, cycling or moving animals;
• you drive a motorised wheelchair (also known as an invalid carriage).

General advice for drivers
When you are joining a motorway
• Always be careful and pay attention when you join a motorway.
• Build up speed on the acceleration lane before merging with motorway traffic.
• Signal in good time to make sure other motorway users know you intend
to join the motorway traffic.
• As you approach the motorway on the slip road, check your mirrors
and your blind spot for a safe gap in the traffic.
• Give way to traffic already on the motorway.
• Change your speed to fit safely and legally into the traffic (lane1). Stay in
the slip road if it continues as an extra lane on the motorway. Avoid crossing
a solid white line that separates the traffic lanes.
• Stay in the left-hand lane (lane1) long enough to adjust to the speed of
traffic before you consider overtaking.

When you are driving on a motorway
• 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 gardaí by dialing 999. Do not
attempt to turn your vehicle. Wait for help in a safe place.
• Drive at a safe and legal speed that will not interfere with traffic
already on 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.
• Variable messaging warning signs may be used to advise motorists
of potential hazards on the motorway. 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 gardaí.
• You must not drive on the hard shoulder as it is a motoring offence to
do so and you could get penalty points.

Using lanes properly
You should know the purpose of each lane on the motorway.
To help you understand when you should move from one lane to another, the picture below gives a number to each lane. The lane nearest the hard shoulder is lane 1 (also known as the inside lane). On a two-lane motorway, the lane nearest to the centre of the road is lane 2 (or the outside lane). On a three-lane motorway, lane 3 is the outside lane.

• Lane 1 – You should always use this lane for normal driving. Stay in this
lane unless you are overtaking.
• Lane 2 – You should only use this lane for overtaking. You must move
back to lane 1 once you have finished overtaking and it is safe to do
so. You can also move into lane 2 to allow vehicles coming from your
left to join the motorway.
• Lane 3 – You should only use this lane if traffic in lanes 1 and 2 is moving
in queues and you need to overtake or make room for merging traffic.
Again, you should move back to lane 1 as soon as it is safe to do so.
When overtaking, only move between two lanes at a time. For example, to move
from lane 1 to lane 3, first move into lane 2 and wait to move to lane 3 until it is safe to do so.

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 you are leaving a motorway
• You will normally leave the motorway by a slip road to your left, unless
signs say that a lane leads directly off the motorway. 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.

• When you leave the motorway or use the link road between motorways,
your speed may be much higher than you think. Check your speedometer
and slow down as some slip roads have sharp bends.
• When you leave the motorway, or it comes to an end, you will see the
signs below.

• Once you are on the motorway, you must signal before every lane change.
• Check your mirrors regularly, as you must always be aware of what
is going on around you.
• Know the blind spots on your own and other drivers’ vehicles. Observing
and scanning ahead of the vehicle in front of you can help you to
avoid unnecessary braking.
• Remember, before changing lanes follow the ‘mirror, signal, mirror,
manoeuvre’ method. Traffic may be coming from behind you at speed
so remember to check your mirrors to help you judge how fast they are
approaching. This will increase your chances of seeing a vehicle
that is travelling in your blind spot.

Keeping your distance
Always leave enough room between you and the vehicle in front to allow you to stop safely. In dry conditions, you should make sure that you are at least two seconds behind the vehicle in front. In bad weather, make sure you are four seconds behind.
A good way to see if you are four seconds behind the vehicle in front is to
choose a point such as a lamp post or road sign. When the vehicle in front of you passes the post or sign, say the following rule twice – ‘only a fool breaks the two second rule’. Check where your vehicle is in relation to the chosen point. If you have moved past it before finishing the saying, you are driving too close to the vehicle in front.
If you are driving in slippery conditions such as ice and snow, slow down and allow up 10 times the distance for braking.

Driving in fog
Dense fog seriously reduces your visibility and makes driving very dangerous.
Our advice is to switch on dipped headlights and fog lamps, reduce your speed and keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front. If the fog closes in, reduce your speed further and take your time getting to your destination.
The added dangers posed by dense fog is that a collision involving one vehicle can quickly involve many others, especially if driving too fast and too close to one another. The greatest risk is of a multiple-vehicle pile-up on roads with higher speeds such as motorways and dual carriageways. As you enter fog, check your mirrors and slow down. Use your foot brake lightly so that your lights warn following drivers.
Use a fixed point to help measure a two-second gap.

What to do if your vehicle breaks down?
• Look out for marked parking areas.
• Move your vehicle to the hard shoulder. Park as near to the left as you can.If you cannot do this, take steps to warn other drivers such as switching
on your hazard warning lights.
• Use the roadside phone to contact the Gardai.
This automatically lets them know your exact location. If you cannot use this phone use your mobile but be aware they will require information about your location.
• Do not place any warning device such as a triangle on the motorway
as it is too dangerous.
• Never try to do repairs yourself on the hard shoulder.
• Wear a high visibility vest. Always carry one in the vehicle.
• Do not walk on the motorway. Leave your vehicle through the left-hand
door and make sure your passengers do the same. Leave animals in
the vehicle or, in an emergency, keep them under control on the verge.
• Make sure that passengers keep away from the motorway lanes and
hard shoulder, and keep children under control.
• Wait for help on the embankment side of the motorway well behind the
crash barrier.
• If for some reason you are unable to follow the above advice, you
should stay in your vehicle with your safety belt securely fastened
and switch on your hazard lights.
• Before you rejoin the motorway after a breakdown, build up your speed
on the hard shoulder before merging into traffic. Be aware that other
vehicles may have stopped on the hard shoulder.

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; and
• payment by electronic toll tag.

Toll lane signage
Toll plaza facilities offer a range of payment options for motorists. The electronic signs at each toll lane show whether the lane is open or closed and how you can pay. The lane signage symbols are as follows:
This sign shows that a toll collector manually operates
the lane and that all methods of payments are accepted.
This eToll sign is the sign for electronic toll collection.

eFlow barrier-free tolling
The M50 is a radial route around Dublin. eFlow barrier-free tolling is in operation between Junction 6 (M50/N3 Blanchardstown) and Junction 7 (M50/N4 Lucan).
There is no toll plaza on the tolled section of the road. The eFlow barrier-free toll system records trips by photographing a vehicle’s license plate number. For information on how to pay your toll visit

Motorway tunnels
Dublin Port tunnel
The Dublin Port tunnel connects the M1 (south of Dublin Airport) to the docklands. Specific road safety issues apply when you are approaching, driving through or leaving the tunnel.
Using the tunnel
• Check your fuel before entering the tunnel.
• Take off your sunglasses.
• Switch on your dipped headlights.
• Tune into any FM radio station to hear safety instructions in case
of an incident.
• Keep a safe distance from the vehicle in front of you.
• Obey the speed limit.
• Do not stop except in an emergency.
• Do not turn or reverse.
If you breakdown or are in a collision
• Switch on your hazard warning lights.
• Switch off your engine and leave your key in the ignition.
• Go to the emergency station. Use the emergency phone to contact
an operator.
• Obey operator instructions on FM radio and electronic signs.
• If your engine is on fire, switch off your engine and leave the
vehicle immediately.
If there is a fire in the tunnel
• If there is smoke or fire behind you, drive out of the tunnel.
• If there is smoke or fire ahead, stop your vehicle, turn off the engine, leave
the key in the ignition, leave your vehicle immediately and exit the
tunnel by the nearest pedestrian exit.

If you are instructed to stop in the tunnel
• Switch on your hazard warning lights.
• Keep a safe distance between vehicles.
• Switch off your engine and leave your key in the ignition.
• Obey operator instructions on FM radio and electronic signs.
• If instructed to exit the tunnel, go to the nearest exit which will be
indicated by distance on the wall.

Penalty points
There are a number of penalty points that you could get if you are driving
unsafely on a motorway. They include:
If you get 12 penalty points on your licence in three years, you will be banned from driving for six months.
Title of offence Penalty points Penalty points Fixed charge
on payment of on court Amount paid Amount paid
fixed charge conviction in 28 days in 28 days
Speeding 2 4 €80 €120
Dangerous overtaking 2 5 €80 €120
Driving a vehicle on a 2 4 €80 €120 motorway against the flow of traffic
Driving on the hard shoulder 1 3 €80 €120 on a motorway
Driving a HGV or bus on the 1 3 €80 €120 outside lane on a motorway
Failure to leave appropriate 2 4 €80 €120 distance between you and
the vehicle in front
Failure to comply with ‘keep 1 3 €60 €90 left’ and ‘keep right’ signs
Failure to comply with 1 3 €60 €90 traffic lane markings