Top of my list is how we cope with lane restrictions and closures. Imagine that a lane ahead is closed, because of a crash or roadworks. Many drivers think that the right thing to do is to get into the queue in the adjacent lane as soon as possible. Perhaps we just like queues here in Britain.

But probably those motorists believe that the sooner they get into the adjacent lane, the less likely it is they will be subjected to the "I'm first, you're next" manoeuvre that many selfish drivers use to prevent another vehicle getting ahead of them.

That manoeuvre usually compromises safety, and it always adds to the congestion. We've all had to wait for two stationary vehicles, nose to nose in the same gap at the same time, while each driver tries to demonstrate to the other that they have "right of way". Getting into the queue in the adjacent lane too early can often result in you having to crawl past a totally empty, but fully open lane - sometimes for several miles.

The safest and most sensible way for drivers to deal with all lane-merging situations is to reduce speed on the approach to the closure, blockage or lane drop, and at the same time increase the gap between your vehicle and the vehicle in front.

The golden words are "use both lanes" - right up to where the lane finishes. At that point, three more golden words come into play: "merge in turn". That means one from the left lane, then one from the right, and so on. When drivers do this, the traffic continues to flow steadily despite the "pinch point" and everyone gets through more quickly.

This zip merging, or interleaving, is common practice overseas and is now being adopted by the Highways Agency, which is providing new signage at set points where the lanes drop away. By learning how to "merge in turn", drivers will deal more effectively with lane closures.

Aside from roadworks, crashes have a major effect on traffic flow. Even a two-vehicle shunt can take out a lane at a crucial point in the morning peak. Highways Agency experts estimate that 25 per cent of our motorway and trunk road congestion at any given point is as a result of crashes. They are introducing fast clear-up teams to get the road open again as soon as possible.

But prevention is better than cure. And we at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) know that 95 per cent of those crashes are avoidable. They are usually down to driver error - anything from losing control because you are driving too fast, or too close, or changing lanes without checking properly first, or failing to anticipate that the car ahead of you is stopping.

Planning your journey so you are in the right lane at the right time (and in the right gear for the conditions) makes for a less stressful drive - and it can also prevent that awful moment when you have to change lanes or risk going the wrong way.

Finally, don't be a rubber-necker. If there is a crash on the opposite carriageway, the best thing you can do is keep a good distance from the car in front and avoid ghoulish distractions. When cars slow down to see what is happening, they increase the chance of another shunt - this time on their side of the carriageway.

To a large extent, how you drive can keep things moving. Crashes that don't happen don't make the radio traffic bulletins - and that's because they don't leave nose-to-tail chaos in their wake.

Bryan Lunn is Chief Examiner at the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM)

moroting@independent.co.uk

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