I’m illegal, cause congestion and road rage, and I could get you a £100 fine plus 3 points on your licence. What am I? Sadly, not a terrible Christmas cracker joke. We’re talking middle lane hogging — one of the most annoying driving habits for motorists in the UK. But loads of drivers aren’t even aware that what they’re doing is wrong.
Take a look at our guide to see what the law says about it, and how you can avoid middle lane hogging yourself. We’ll also talk about how to handle the situation when you encounter other drivers doing it. Buckle up!
What is middle lane hogging?
Middle lane hogging usually occurs on motorways where there are three or more lanes. According to the Highway Code, Rule 264, you should:
“Keep in the left lane unless overtaking.
If you are overtaking, you should return to the left lane when it is safe to do so.”
However, some motorists travel in the middle lane whether they’re overtaking other vehicles or not. This is middle lane hogging, and it creates problems for other motorists. Even one vehicle sticking in the middle lane unnecessarily can cause tailbacks, as drivers have to go right out into the third lane to overtake. It also encourages undertaking, which is incredibly dangerous.
Sometimes there are totally valid reasons for driving in the middle lane. And, if you’re doing it legitimately, it’s not counted as middle lane hogging. Staying on the right to overtake several vehicles in a row is better than weaving in and out of lanes; keeping in lane when signs explicitly tell you to do so is also best practice. In most situations, you should only be driving in the middle lane for short periods, and only to overtake, or to let traffic onto the road.
Middle lane hogging is:
➞ Continuing in the middle lane unnecessarily
Middle lane hogging is NOT:
➞ Staying in the middle lane when signs are telling you to ‘keep in lane’
➞ Using the middle lane to overtake, or let other traffic from slip roads join the motorway
➞ Moving out to the middle lane when you see a vehicle on the hard shoulder
Why do people hog the middle lane on motorways?
There are a few reasons people sit in the middle lane, and not all of them are to annoy other drivers.
|Ignorance||Despite it being part of the ‘motorway rules’ topic on the theory test, plenty of motorists claim to be unaware of middle lane hogging laws. There was a Highways England campaign in 2004 to increase awareness of the issue, but it didn’t produce much of a result.
One thing that may increase new drivers’ knowledge of lane discipline is the fact learners can now take lessons on motorways. Although you won’t be tested on motorway driving during your practical test, it’s good to have some experience (and helps to reinforce your theory).
|Convenience||With vehicles frequently joining the motorway from slip roads on the left, some drivers want to save themselves the trouble of pulling out to let others in. They stay in the middle lane to prevent having to keep switching lanes. This could be a valid reason to use the middle lane, but only if the slip roads were very close together and they’re continuously letting traffic onto the road.
Otherwise, convenience doesn’t cut it with the law. And anyway, you make things more difficult for everyone else if you hog the middle lane.
|Safety||Some drivers actually have good motives for middle lane hogging. They don’t want to keep weaving in and out of lanes. However, when there’s a big gap between vehicles to overtake, this behaviour crosses over into middle lane hogging. It becomes dangerous as it causes undertaking and road rage.|
|Inconsideration||Some people are simply bad drivers and choose to disobey the rules of the road, regardless of their impact on other people. These motorists are in the minority—but their actions are so frustrating that they have a negative effect on the mood of those around them.|
Is middle lane hogging illegal?
Middle lane hogging is classed as a traffic offence under ‘careless driving’ legislation—it’s therefore illegal. Offenders risk the wrath of the law, as well as the annoyance of other motorists, when they fail to keep left. Since 2013, police have had the right to pull over middle lane hoggers and issue them with an on-the-spot-fine of £100 and three penalty points on their licence.
How do you deal with the middle lane hoggers?
It’s easy to get caught up in the actions of others, especially when they seem inconsiderate. However, people often have shorter fuses when behind the wheel—hence the term ‘road rage’. This means that a poor decision by another driver can rapidly escalate into a dangerous situation if you can’t control your reaction to it.
That being the case, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts for when you, inevitably, encounter middle lane hoggers.
✓ Calmly overtake them using the lane to their right
✓ Recognise that they’re probably making a genuine mistake
✓ Report them to the police if they’re causing a genuine, immediate danger
❌ Get angry
❌ Try to teach them a lesson by tailgating or cutting them up (pulling in very close in front of them)
① Are there exceptions or defences to middle lane hogging?
If you’re caught middle lane hogging, you’ll only get out of it by proving you were travelling in the middle lane for a valid reason. In that case, you wouldn’t be a hogger at all.
If you’re not sure of all the rules about where you’re meant to drive, check out our guide to lane discipline.
② How many fines are handed out each year to middle lane hoggers?
According to official government data, there was a big increase in Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) handed out for careless driving after 2013, when it was announced that there’d be a crackdown on middle lane hogging. However, numbers of relevant FPNs issued have since plateaued and, in the latest figures, even tailed off.
We’ve reached out to police forces across the country to find out how many of these fines specifically targeted middle lane hoggers, and will hopefully have an update for you soon.
③ What other offences are classed as careless driving?
Careless driving encompasses a host of offences like tailgating, accidentally running a red light, and dazzling drivers with full beam headlights. It also includes getting distracted by something avoidable, though not necessarily illegal in its own right, like eating and drinking behind the wheel or lighting a cigarette.