The Dual Carriageway vs The Motorway

the beginners guide to clutch control
The Beginners Guide To Clutch Control
29th April 2024
what colour follows green at a puffin crossing
What Colour Follows Green At A Puffin Crossing
24th June 2024
Show all

The Dual Carriageway vs The Motorway

the dual carriageway vs the motorway

Understanding the differences between a dual carriageway and a motorway is crucial for learner drivers. In this article, we look at the main differences between these two types of roads, including the number of lanes, speed limit, access points, and hard shoulder.

Whether you’re an experienced driver or still learning, understanding the difference between motorways and dual carriageways will lead to more informed and safer driving decisions.

Defining Dual Carriageways and Motorways

  • Dual Carriageway:

A dual carriageway is a road designed to separate traffic moving in two directions (opposite directions) with a central reservation to enhance safety.

Key characteristics include:

  • multiple lanes in each direction
  • a barrier separating the traffic
  • various entry and exit points, such as roundabouts or junctions
  • lower speed limits than on motorways
  • Motorway:

A motorway is a high-speed road designed for long-distance traffic, featuring multiple lanes, a central barrier, and controlled direct access via a slip road. They typically have three lanes – a left-hand lane, a middle lane, and a right-hand lane for overtaking.

Pedestrians, cyclists, and slow vehicles are not allowed. Motorways have higher speed limits than both single and dual carriageways and no traffic signals, ensuring smooth, fast travel.

Key Differences Between Dual Carriageways and Motorways

Let’s look at some of the key differences between motorways and dual carriageways.

  • Number of Lanes:
    • Dual carriageway: Typically, a dual carriageway has two lanes in each direction.
    • Motorway: A motorway usually has three, or sometimes more, lanes in each direction.
  • Speed Limits:
    • Dual carriageway: The top speed limit on a dual carriageway varies by region but is generally lower than motorways, typically 60mph.
    • Motorway: You can expect motorways to have a speed limit of 70mph.

Speed limits on these roads will vary in other countries.

  • Access Points:
    • Dual carriageway: A dual carriageway usually has frequent junctions and traffic lights.
    • Motorway: There is controlled access to a motorway, with limited entry and exit points (usually via slip roads).
  • Hard Shoulder:
    • Dual carriageway: Dual carriageways do not usually have hard shoulders.
    • Motorway: Motorways have wide, hard shoulders in case of emergencies.

Safety Tips for Driving on Dual Carriageways and Motorways

When drivers use either of these types of roads, it’s important to drive safely to avoid an accident with another vehicle, as they have higher speed limits than a normal road.

Here are our tips:

  • join at the same speed as other vehicles already on motorways and dual carriageways
  • maintain a safe distance between your car and other vehicles
  • overtake on the right and always signal your intention to change from one lane to another
  • Stay in the left-hand lane unless you are overtaking slow-moving vehicles
  • adapt your speed depending on the weather and conditions, as you would on other roads.
  • use the hard shoulder only in an emergency

By following these safety tips, you can reduce the risk of accidents and ensure a smoother driving experience on both roads.


Understanding the motorway regulations and the differences between dual carriageways and motorways is crucial for safe driving. General safety practices apply to all roads, but motorways require specific rules like using hard shoulders for emergencies and proper lane discipline. Adhering to these guidelines ensures a safer journey for everyone.

If you would like to improve your confidence on these roads, contact Totally Driving to book their Smart Motorway Refresher Course here.

Olie Smith
Olie Smith
Olie Smith is a DSA Fully Approved Driving instructor with years of professional experience in driver training. Oliver set up Totally Driving to give a more bespoke, personal feel to driving lessons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *