smart motorways

Smart motorways (used to be called managed motorways) includes sections which use active traffic management methods to reduce congestion and increase capacity in busy areas.

Methods can include:

  • using the hard shoulder as an extra lane
  • using variable speed limits to control traffic flow

Smart motorways have been developed as a way of increasing capacity on the roads but without being detrimental to the environment.

Different Types of Smart Motorways

There are three different types of traffic management currently:

  • controlled motorways – comprising of three or more lanes (but retaining hard shoulder to be used in emergencies), variable speed limits are displayed on overhead signs. If no speed is shown then the national speed limit applies.
  • dynamic hard shoulder running schemes – this opens up the hard shoulder as an extra lane at busy periods. Overhead signs indicate if the hard shoulder is open to traffic. If an X is shown then you must exit straight away.
  • all lane running schemes – this removes the hard shoulder permanently and instead provide regularly spaced refuge areas to be used in emergencies

Safety Concerns

Smart motorways’ safety has been discussed at length in the media; how safe can they be if there is no hard shoulder?

Highways England though carried out a study from the traffic on the M42 motorway (opened in 2006) and has found that:

  • journey reliability improved by 22 per cent
  • personal injury accidents reduced by more than half
  • where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured

Fines and Penalties

There is a higher risk of you receiving a speeding fine on a smart motorway due to the increased number of cameras (there to enforce the variable speed limits) and you might be fined up to £2500!

As mentioned in our new driving laws in 2019 article, you could face a fine of up to £100 and three points on your licence if you drive in a lane closed on a smart motorway (designated with an X).

Driving advice on smart motorways

Here are some quick tips from the government’s guidance:

  • Never drive in a lane designated with “X”
  • Keep to the speed limits as shown on overhead signs
  • A solid white line will indicate a hard shoulder (so don’t drive in there unless indicated)
  • A broken white line shows that it is a normal lane
  • If your vehicle shows signs of trouble (warning light etc) then head over to a refuge or exit the smart motorway asap and if you break down don’t forget to use your hazards

Where can we find a smart motorways in UK?

Now that you know all about smart motorways and how to drive on them, you’ll be looking to put all this advice into practice! Here is a list of where you can find them in the UK.

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