A Brief Guide to Smart Motorways
Smart motorways are becoming more common throughout England, so it’s important you get to grips with them. We’ve provided an outline for the following areas:
- What is a Smart Motorway
- Where will you find them
- How to use them
- What happens if you break down on one of these motorways
What is a Smart Motorway?
Smart Motorways use traffic management to reduce congestion in frequently busy areas. This might be done by using the hard shoulder as an extra lane or changing speed limits to control traffic flow.
There are three types of smart motorway:
- All Lane Running Schemes
- Controlled Motorways
- Dynamic Hard Shoulder
The all lane running scheme will use the hard shoulder to run traffic. When this happens, the hard shoulder becomes known as lane 1. Overhead gantry signs will inform you of the speed limit, in relation to the traffic situation.
If an incident occurs in lane one, a red cross symbol appears to inform you the lane has closed. Driving in a lane which has the red X symbol is illegal & you could face prosecution for your actions.
Controlled motorways will have three or four lanes with various speeds, according to the situation. They still have a hard shoulder, but they should only be used in a genuine emergency.
The Dynamic Hard Shoulder is where the hard shoulder becomes a running lane to traffic at busy periods, reducing congestion.
The hard shoulder is marked by a solid white line, & the overhead signs on gantries will tell you if the hard shoulder is open to traffic. Speed limits will change according to traffic conditions.
Just like the all-running lane, a red X is on display if the lane has been closed to traffic.
The dynamic hard shoulder is now in use across the M42, M1, M6, M4 & M5.
Smart Motorway Locations
Here is a list of the motorways currently using these schemes:
All running lane locations
Controlled motorway locations
M42 J3a-M40 J16
Hard shoulder running locations
M42 J3a-7 (pilot)
Breaking Down on a Smart Motorway
If you break down, or are involved in an accident whilst on a smart motorway, take the following measures:
- Use an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA) if you can reach one safely. These are marked as blue signs with an orange SOS telephone symbol on them. They should never be more than 1.5 miles away from you at any given time.
- If you cannot get to an emergency refuge area, try to move on to the edge of the lane if there is no safety barrier, & if it’s safe to do so.
- Always have your hazard warning lights switched on.
- If you stop in the nearside lane, leave your vehicle via the nearside (left hand) door, if it is safe to do so & wait behind the safety barrier. If you cannot move to the nearside lane, remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on.
- If you can leave your vehicle safely, contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephone. Otherwise, stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on & dial ‘999’ if you have access to a working mobile phone.