The development of smart motorways is increasing in an attempt to relieve traffic congestion across the busiest parts of the UK road network. While a smart motorway might seem similar to a regular motorway there are a very important differences you need to be aware of so you can keep yourself and other road users safe. Read on for our top tips!
As with any motorway it is important to keep note of the overhead signs. On a smart motorway the speed limit will be change accordingly, depending on how busy the motorway is and if there are any areas of congested traffic up ahead. As well as speed limits, lane closures are also lit up on the overhead signs.
The hard shoulder on a smart motorway can be opened into a ‘live lane’ at any time to alleviate congested traffic. Take note of the overhead signs to see if the hard shoulder is open or not to live traffic. A red ‘X’ in the sign above the fourth lane will indicate that the lane is closed to live traffic and using it at such a time will not go down well with the law, as there could be an accident or debris in the lane ahead.
When driving on a smart motorway the safest place to stop in an emergency is the designated refuge area; these areas are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone. A recent survey by the RAC revealed that 52% of motorists aren’t confident on how to use a refuge area on a smart motorway correctly.
These are laybys next to the hard shoulder and are for emergency use only. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to pull into one of these laybys make sure you alert other traffic around you by indicating your intentions to pull over and always turn on your hazard warning lights. Each refuge area will have an orange emergency phone. Once everyone has safely left the car, via the left side, you can use this phone to contact Highways England who will inform you of what to do next.
Although it may be tempting to pull into the hard shoulder, on certain areas of some smart motorways, the hard shoulder is sometimes used as a live lane especially during peak traffic periods. You will know if this lane is open as it will have a speed limit on the overhead sign. However, if there is a red ‘X’, the usual rules apply for the hard shoulder; only to be used in emergencies.
Smart motorways are becoming more widely used across the UK as a way of alleviating traffic during busy times. Do you think they’re a good idea? Let us know!