28 Aug 2013

Why does the M6 attract the worst driving standards in the UK?

I've pretty much driven every single motorway in the UK - some with more regularity than others, but none more regular than the route from Berkshire to Cheshire.

Work and location of family has meant that over the past 20-odd years I've driven the A34, M40, M42 and M6 hundreds of times.  Over the past few years I've started to use the M6 toll road too.

Of all the motorways I've ever travelled on the M6 between Birmingham and J18 is, without doubt, the scariest, the host to the worst driving standards, the riskiest to travel along and the most downright dangerous in the UK.

The M42 used to be frustrating because it was only ever a slow crawl.  Now it is frustrating because of the stupid overhead signs slowing everyone down between the temporary speed limits, which are usually set to 60mph - even when it's relatively free flowing.

The M40 is a luxurious stretch of open highway where drivers generally behave themselves, and it is mercifully low on HGVs.  And for some weird reason I always wave at the Prodrive factory.

The M6 Toll road is blissful, quiet freedom albeit peppered with occasional idiots in M3s doing 130mph and the odd moron who travels its entire length in the middle lane at 65mph.

The M6 is almost always busy.  Until the M6 Toll opened I would spend hours crawling along at the approach to J8 on the M6, where it merges with the M5.  Then the merged traffic, vying for space over three lanes, would uneasily head north towards Stoke with plenty of stops and starts and even some bumps on the way.

Now I take the M6 Toll every single time I head north, miss out the horrendous elevated section north of Birmingham, and congested J8, and zoom straight on to the M6 at J11, near Cannock.

Once on the M6 I've 44 miles of hell until I exit at J18.  Those 44 miles are, without fail, peppered with stupid and ignorant driving.

It's not normally so busy the traffic stops.  It's always moving along at 70ish.  And then 40, then 70, then 50, then 70, then 0, then 70.  On and on it goes in a moronic accordion, which usually results in an accident for some idiot who was driving inches from the bumper of the car in front, which abruptly slowed because the car the car in front of him did so.

The inside lane is always full of HGVs, nose to tail and 50% of which seem to bear the Morrisons Supermarket logo.  The middle lane is the preserve of those too scared to mix it with the HGVs in the inside lane, and people occasionally escaping the madness of the outside lane.  The outside lane is full of nutters who drive too close to each other and use their brakes only at the last minute.

Maybe the lanes are narrower on the M6 than any other motorway, maybe north Midlanders are naturally short sighted and can only see a car when it's 5 yards in front of them, maybe it's due to the massive amount of distribution warehouses in the North West, maybe its the idiots who drive at 65mph without ever moving out of the fast lane, maybe its people trying to escape Birmingham.

My own theory is that the M6 is the last bastion of belligerence.  Of drivers of differing abilities and attitudes who refuse to get on with each other.  Every single time I use the M6 I see:

  • Massive queues of cars stuck behind some idiot doing 65mph in the outside lane (with half a mile of road clear in front of them), and who dart in and out of the middle lane to try and undertake, and then try and barge back in when they fail.
  • Poor manners in terms of allowing people in and out of lanes.  Normal lane use is then curtailed as drivers won't move across when the lane to their left is free, for fear of not being able to move into the lane to their right due to awkward and stubborn drivers.
  • A lack of foresight, and forward vision when it comes to what's happening in the traffic ahead.
  • Cars travelling mile after mile directly adjacent to each other, not allowing an escape route.
  • A general lack of smoothness.
  • A definite lack of tolerance.
  • A tremendous amount of HGVs who overtake each other with only a 0.5mph differential.
  • A low speed shunt where someone has rear-ended someone else.
  • Idiots

Anyone who uses the M6 should be forced to read my '10 tips to avoid crashing your car'.  The M6 is the Wild West of the UK motorway network.  The Highways Agency have painted big white chevrons, and not done much else apart from create places for Traffic Wombles to park their Shoguns - which in itself causes a sudden accordion effect.

In my opinion the M6 Toll should be extended to run in parallel with it all the way up to the M56.  That way all of us courteous, sensible drivers will enjoy a ride up the motorway free from idiots on the M6, whilst the idiots continue to crash into each other between J 11 and 18 of the worst motorway in the UK.