Transport watchdog Transport Focus recently stated that drivers on Britain’s roads need more help and guidance when using smart motorways. With this in mind, we thought it would be helpful to take you through what smart motorways actually are, how they work and other essential information you should know about them.
What is a smart motorway?
A smart motorway can’t help you with your homework, but it can help with congestion. Highways England plans to lay down 240 miles of smart motorway over the next 3 years as part of their 2015-2020 business plan.
Smart motorways increase road capacity whilst maintaining, or in some cases even increasing, road safety. The hard shoulder is used as an extra lane during peak times or even permanently. Meanwhile, technology is used to monitor the flow of traffic and either change the speed limit in response to heavy congestion, close lanes for emergency vehicles and provide warning sides in the event of an accident.
How to drive on them
It’s clear that smart motorways are here to stay. Obviously, the usual rules of motorway driving apply to smart motorways, but there are a few other rules and things you should be aware of when driving on one.
- They don’t give you the hard shoulder. In some cases, the hard shoulder is another lane that you can drive one. Of course, this begs the question of what on earth you’re supposed to do if you break down on the motorway. There are emergency refuge areas on smart motorways where you can remain until help arrives. These are only a few seconds away if you’re driving at your normal motorway speed – never more than a couple of minutes. There’s a phone in each refuge area so you can call for help.
- Really pay attention to the red Xs. These Xs that will appear on the signs above your head as you’re driving indicate that a lane is closed. If you’re in that lane, best move over sharpish. If you don’t move out of the lane quick enough, you may incur a hefty fine.
- Follow the speed limits. On a smart motorway, the speed limit may not always be 70mph. It can be less to help with traffic flow and ease congestion. The new speed limit will appear on the signs above your head. These are legally enforceable. That means if you’re exceeding them you can be prosecuted.
The main differences between a smart and non-smart motorway involve the loss of hard shoulder and the appearance of electronic signs above your head. You don’t have to worry about the lack of hard shoulder on a smart motorway as there are many emergency shelter areas where you can pull into if needed. If you find yourself on a smart motorway, make sure you keep an eye on the signs above you and change speed or move lanes if needed. Follow these simple steps to smart motorway driving and you’ll soon be revving along like a pro.