Is Britain a nation of middle-lane hoggers?

STOCK PHOTO  Cars drive in the centre lane on the M5 Motorway near Bridgend, Wales. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday August, 16, 2013. Photo credit should read: Ben Birchall/PA Wire

It's one of the most irritating habits on the road – drivers remaining in the middle lane of the motorway, despite the inner lane being clear. Lane-hogging is so despised in the UK that it's now an offence, with a £100 fixed penalty notice the punishment if caught.

But even this doesn't deter drivers totally. A new poll, commissioned by insurance firm Direct Line, found that 43 per cent of drivers admit to hogging the middle lane, even when the inside is clear. Just over a third of these lane hoggers said that they do it to avoid changing lanes too often.

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More than 20 per cent say that they stay in the middle lane because they feel safer, while 11 per cent claim that if they're driving at the maximum speed limit, nobody should be overtaking them anyway.

Londoners are the worst offenders, with 65 per cent likely to drive in the middle lane of a motorway. But head further out of the city limits and drivers in the South East are least likely to lane hog – or perhaps, least likely to admit to it.

However, it's possible that these drivers just aren't aware that middle-lane hogging is a punishable offence. Over half (51 per cent) of the poll's 2,000 respondents were aware they could be prosecuted for not moving over.

Hogging the middle lane became a 'careless driving' offence in 2013, with a £100 fixed-penalty notice issued to those convicted. But repeated or dangerous middle lane hogging could see drivers prosecuted for the act, which if taken to court could see them hit with a fine of up to 175 per cent of their weekly income – and between three and nine points on their driver's license.

But police don't issue many fines. In September 2016, it was announced that just 135 on-the-spot middle lane hogging fines had been issued in the three previous years.

Rob Miles, director of car insurance at Direct Line, said: "Our analysis of traffic flows shows that millions of drivers risk prosecution by travelling in the middle and outside lanes when the inside lanes are entirely clear.

"It's important that we increase awareness of the rules and penalties, primarily because they exist to keep road users safe but also drivers face serious fines and endorsements that that will stay on their record for four years."

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