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Disabled Driving on the Motorway: The AccessAble app and our top tips!

One of the biggest worries while using the motorway with a disability is finding an accessible place to stop for a break. You can’t always know what sort of facilities a rest stop will have and because it can be dangerous taking the risk of just showing up and hoping for the best, travelling on the motorway can involve a considerable amount of planning.

The good news is that motorway driving for disabled people may have just got a little more straightforward. This summer, Highways England pushed to better support disabled drivers taking long journeys on motorways by teaming up with AccessAble to provide an easy hub of information for disabled travellers on UK roads. By doing so, they gave disabled road users a resource to help them know what to expect from motorway services – making the planning process for travelling far less strenuous.

The AccessAble App

The information included in the app covers important things like toilet access and walking distances at motorway services. Our favourite feature of the app is that it will allow you to virtually explore the rest stop before your visit! AccessAble try to cater for lots of different accessibility needs so give as much accurate, detailed information as possible. AccessAble has been around for over two decades now, having been set up by wheelchair user, Dr. Gregory Burke who wanted to help take the stress out of travelling for other wheelchair users.

If you have an smart device, you can now download the app on the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store to explore these guides on the go. If you don’t have a smartphone, you can still access this information via the AccessAble website and simply type ‘Motorway services’ into the ‘I am looking for…’ search box.

Obviously, this information is a great leap forward in terms of accessibility, though it goes without saying that Highways England could be doing far to make motorway travel easier for disabled folks. Improving the accessibility of all its service stations would make the need for extensive planning (or guides like AccessAble) redundant. Disabled people should be better catered for so that they can access any rest stop just like any non-disabled motorway user.

Our top tips for motorway driving:

It’s still necessary for disabled road users to plan far more than their non-disabled counterparts. If you’re getting ready to take your WAV for a trip on the motorway, here are some top tips for safe journeys. Of course, many of these tips are relevant for all drivers, but there are some that are particularly important for WAV drivers…

  1. Plan ahead
    • If you’re reading this, you’re doing a fantastic job of planning ahead already! Using AccessAble’s resources will allow you to plan rest stops along your motorway journey, so you won’t get caught out.
    • Check the weather forecast, check the traffic, check your route, check your vehicle, and always plan ahead in case you’re on the road longer than your journey should take.

  2. Keep a safe distance
    • This is an important tip that many drivers neglect to follow, and one that is especially important if you’re driving a larger vehicle like a WAV. The heaver your vehicle, the longer than normal your stopping time is going to be.
    • The Highways Agency recommends leaving no less than a 2-second gap between you and the vehicle in front, double this if it’s rainy, and five times more if there’s ice on the ground. If you’re driving a WAV, consider leaving even more space than is recommended to be on the safe side!

  3. Don’t hog the middle lane
    • The middle and outside lane are for overtaking only. This means that if you’re not going to overtake a vehicle any time very soon, you need to move into the inside lane (left-hand lane) to allow traffic to pass you easily.
    • While it can be good driving practice to look ahead in the road prepare to overtake vehicles by moving to the middle lane sooner (so you don’t get stuck and have to slow down a lot at the last minute), don’t linger there the whole time.
    • Hogging the middle lane can be really frustrating to other drivers and can cause congestion, but it’s also classed as ‘careless driving’ that can lead to a fine or points on your licence.
    • Don’t forget that if you do see someone hogging the middle lane, don’t undertake them – however tempting to do so, it’s dangerous and also illegal.

  4. Use your lights
    • It’s incredibly important for your safety and the safety of your passengers to use your headlights whenever it’s dark or the weather is particularly bad (less than 100m visibility in rain, snow, or fog).
    • Not only will your lights enable you to see the road properly, they’re even more important in allowing other road users to see you!
    • While many vehicles now have automatic lights, older models will still require you to use these manually; definitely make sure you know how your lights work before setting off.

  5. Pay attention to the speed limit (especially on smart motorways)
    • The standard speed limit for the motorway is 70mph, though smart motorways can reduce that to help better manage traffic on the roads.
    • If you see variable speed limit signs above you in red, this is the speed limit for the road at that current point in time and you need to adhere to it immediately to avoid getting caught by a speed camera.

  6. Drive smart in the winter
    • As mentioned above, it’s really important to check the weather ahead of your journey as part of your planning and it’s safe to leave larger distances in bad weather. Driving in winter can be more difficult as it’s likely to be darker and the weather will often be poorer – with the risk of ice and snow.
    • Read our Winter Driving Tips for WAVs for more information.

At Cartwright, we’re passionate about supporting disabled people – providing them with wheelchair accessible vehicles (WAVs) either privately or through the Motability Scheme. Whether you’re a driver who uses a wheelchair or you’re looking to lease a WAV as a passenger, we’re here to help you find something that suits your needs and is within your budget. We want driving with a disability (including on the motorway) to be a breeze. Please get in contact with our friendly team for more information about WAVs or any more advice about wheelchair accessible road travel.

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