Running out of fuel on the motorway – it’s stupid, dangerous and surprisingly popular!

New figures published by the Highways Agency have revealed that running out of fuel on motorways is surprisingly popular amongst car drivers. No fewer than 15,788 vehicles ran out of fuel on the UK’s motorways between 1st July 2008 and 30th June 2009 – 43 people per day – and that’s only the motorways.

While I understand that accidents happen, it is a bit hard to understand why people driving modern cars would let themselves run out of fuel so often – most fuel gauges are reasonably accurate these days. The UK is not a sparsely populated country, either – when you are on a motorway, you are rarely more than 20 miles from a petrol station, often much less.

Based on the cars and vans I have owned, most vehicles have about 10% of their total range left once the fuel warning light comes on. This usually gives you plenty of opportunity to fill up before you run out.

I don’t understand it and Highways Agency Traffic Patrol Officer Nick Gretch seemed puzzled too, saying that “The top excuses we come across are: ‘someone else drove the car last night and did not fill it up‘ or ‘my partner usually fills up the tank’.” I wonder if these people would also try to boil a kettle with no water in it if the previous user of the kettle had left it empty?

To be honest (old and disabled drivers possibly excepted), if you can’t manage to monitor the fuel gauge when you are driving and fill up your car without depending on someone else, maybe you should consider giving up your driving licence – I mean really, isn’t that a bit feeble?

I realise, of course, that the things I have said make it far more likely that I will somehow run out of fuel on a motorway in the near future – in which case I give you my word that I will make it public here if it does happen. In the mean time, here are some tips to help you avoid this embarrassing fate:

  • Fill up before you set off on a long journey
  • If the low fuel warning light comes on, find a filling station as soon as possible.
  • Remember that driving at motorway speeds can use more fuel – if fuel is running short and you are looking for somewhere to fill up, slow down to the same speed as the lorries and stay in the inside lane – this will reduce your fuel consumption until you can get to a petrol station.
  • Don’t try and avoid motorway fuel prices and save 20p by waiting until you leave the motorway to fill up – it is not worth the risk. Just put £10 in at the first garage you come to to give yourself some breathing space.

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