Highways England recently announced that an extra 300 miles of smart motorways without hard shoulders will be introduced in England by 2025. Despite the various issues and problems, it looks like smart motorways are here to stay….With this in mind it’s really important that you get a good understanding about how to use them, and how to stay safe when traveling on them.

Smart motorways use technology to analyse and monitor traffic flow, and can change the speed limit according to the volume of traffic and traffic flow. The speed limits are shown above the lane. Smart motorways currently cover around 400 miles in England.

There are three types of smart motorway, which are described as:

  1. Controlled – people cannot drive on the hard shoulder
  2. Dynamic hard shoulder – the hard shoulder can be opened
  3. All lanes running (ALR) – the hard shoulder has permanently become a lane

Smart Motorway Tips:

  1. Never drive in a lane closed by a Red X
  2. Keep to the speed limits displayed
  3. A solid white unbroken line signifies a hard shoulder – if there’s no speed limit displayed or a Red X is displayed, do not use it
  4. A broken white line denotes a normal running lane
  5. Use the designated emergency areas should you have an emergency, if the hard shoulder is being used as an extra lane
  6. Exit the motorway immediately, if possible, if you have any issues or problems with your car
  7. Put your hazard warning lights on if you breakdown

What if you breakdown on a smart motorway?

You should try and get off the motorway as soon as possible if you have problems with your vehicle. This can be at the nearest exit, nearest service station or Emergency Refuge Areas (which are every 1.5 miles apart). However, this is not always possible. If the worst happens and you have to stop, and the hard shoulder is being used as a traffic lane follow these points:

  1. Pull up as close as possible to the left hand verge or other nearside boundary or slip road
  2. Use your hazard warning lights and keep your sidelights on if it’s dark or visibility is poor. Use rear fog lights if required
  3. Leave the vehicle by the left-hand doors and ask passengers to do the same
  4. Wear a high-visibility jacket or vest
  5. Don’t cross the carriageway
  6. Stand behind the crash barrier
  7. Don’t attempt even simple repairs
  8. Call your breakdown provider or Highways England
  9. If you breakdown and can’t get out of your vehicle, such as your vehicle being stranded in a live lane, keep your seatbelt on, put your hazard warning lights on and call 999 then call your breakdown provider

Learn more about smart motorways Emergency Refuge Areas:

The safety concerns about smart motorways:

Since 2015 it’s been reported that sadly 38 people have been killed on smart motorways, which has triggered concerns about their safety. The main reason for this is the use of the hard shoulder as a traffic lane.  People are urged to always try and get off the motorway if they have a problem. If they can’t there are Emergency Refuge Areas, which as mentioned above, are placed every 1.5 miles. If you are traveling at 60mph, that means you’re only no more than 75 seconds away from one. Always be aware of yours and other safety.

Become a safer motorway driver:

We offer bespoke motorway driving courses – starting from 3.5hr sessions across all of the UK. Learn more and book online here.