Risk management

Fleet safety series

Safe driving on superhighways

Let’s review the recommended techniques for freeway driving. The uninitiated will profit and even drivers who use the freeways regularly may pick up some critical pointers. 

First of all, be sure you’re prepared for the long, high speed trip before you leave the garage. Know that you’re in good physical condition and wide awake. The freeway is no place for sleepyheads. Also be sure your vehicle is ready, that it is properly filled up with gas, oil and water; tires and brakes are in good order, and windshield and lights are cleaned. 

We’ve all been in the habit of pulling up to a major traffic artery and stopping to wait for a green light or an opening in the traffic flow before we cut in. It’s much different with an expressway. The timid guy who stops on the entrance ramp is in trouble. He now must step on the gas as the ramp turns into the acceleration lane (paralleling the main traffic flow) so as to match the speed of the expressway traffic and merge into the stream. 

Now that you’re on the freeway, remember that it is a “limited access” highway, engineered for speed with safety IF you use it in the prescribed manner. There’ll be no cross streets to watch for—only the widely spaced entrance ramps, like the one you just entered, and they are designed so that entering vehicles will not impede the flow of traffic. 

And the fact that it is a limited access highway means that it is designed for speed. Speed is the reason the access is limited. You have entered a special traffic way where traffic is supposed to move fast, and you must match the pace. If you like a slower rate of travel, you have no business on the expressway. Slow drivers on freeways can be as dangerous as the speeder. 

Excessive speed also is dangerous on the superhighway, as it is on the road. Engineers who design such fast highways usually recommend the top safe speed (for vehicles and drivers in good condition) and this figure usually is posted as the speed limit. Don’t ever exceed it. 

Since some drivers on these roads persist in driving slower than the majority of drivers, some passing is necessary. But you don’t pass on an expressway the way you did in the old days by getting up close behind the lead vehicle and darting around as soon as you come to “a wide place in the road.” 

On expressways you stay well back of the vehicle ahead. (One vehicle length for each 10 miles of speed is the standard following distance to provide a safe space cushion, but this should be increased on expressways.) When you want to pass, check your mirrors and blind spots to be sure your passing lane is clear, switch on your turn signal light, and ease over into the passing lane. 

Then you accelerate to pass the other vehicle, continuing in the passing lane until you can see all of the passed vehicle in your rearview mirror. Then signal and cut back to your lane, and continue at the speed of the majority of your fellow motorists. 

Just picture how pleasant this kind of rapid travel can be! All drivers are moving along together at a fast clip, each staying in his own lane well back of the vehicle ahead of him—none disturbing the peace of other drivers by “tailgating”— none imperiling the others by jackrabbit bursts of speed and weaving in and out. 

That’s the kind of pleasant driving the expressways were designed to provide! That’s what it can be if you and all other drivers use expressways as they’re supposed to be used. 

If you are going to contribute to this type of pleasant driving, be sure to keep your mind on the driving job. Stay alert to all that’s going on around you, watching to see that you maintain your safe cushion of space in the driving pattern, staying in your lane without drifting across the painted lane lines. By keeping your eye on the road ahead, on either side and behind you, you will know what evasive action you can take if trouble develops ahead. 

While you’re doing all this, see and read, and heed every expressway sign. There aren’t many of them, but they’re all important to you. If you have followed one important rule—to check your map before starting out—you will recognize the exit sign just ahead of the exit you will use. Now you begin working your way over to the exit side (usually on the right). If you should pass your exit, don’t slow down but keep on going and turn off at the next exit. Stopping or backing on an expressway can be suicidal! 

When you come to your exit you continue at full speed until you are in the deceleration lane, then you apply the brakes to slow down to the speed posted at that ramp. Check your speedometer to be sure, you can’t trust your senses after that high speed driving. 

At this point you readjust your mental attitude about speed, remembering that you now must conform to the slower speed limits of streets or side roads. 

Now, you’ve made a trip on the expressway and are back in familiar street traffic. Try to use the expressways whenever they’re convenient to get from here to there—always remembering the points just outlined. 

Statistics prove that freeway travel is safer that any other type of highway travel, based on total vehicle mileage. Use the expressway properly for fast, safe and pleasant driving!


Insurance products and services are offered through Markel Specialty Commercial, a business division of Markel Service Incorporated, policies written by one or more Markel insurance companies. Terms and conditions for coverage may vary by state.

The information provided in this article is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be considered as all encompassing, or suitable for all situations, conditions, and environments. Please contact us or your attorney if you have any questions.