What are Smart Motorways?

14 Aug What are Smart Motorways?

Miles of motorway around Britain are being updated. Drivers need to be prepared for the impact this will have on their journeys, and understand fully how these stretches of motorway work.

Smart motorways are a section of motorway that uses active traffic management (ATM). Highways England is responsible for this, and uses technology that actively manages the flow of traffic from a regional traffic control centre. This control centre monitors traffic so that they can activate and change signs and speed limits, including closing lanes and opening the hard shoulder to traffic, as well as warning drivers of impending hazards. This relieves congestion and helps keep the traffic flowing freely by increasing the capacity of the road.

Becoming familiar with the types of signs and signals you will see as a driver, and knowing what to do in the event of a breakdown on a road with no hard shoulder are the top priorities. Here’s what you need to know when driving on a smart motorway:

• Do not drive in a lane marked with a red ‘x’. This is one of the most important signs to know. A lane may be closed because a person, animal, or debris may be on the road. There could also be an accident or breakdown up ahead, and the lane may be closed to keep it clear for the emergency services. For everyone’s safety, never drive in a road closed by a red ‘x’. Driving in a lane marked with a red ‘x’ is illegal and could lead to you being prosecuted.
• Keep to the speed limit shown. This regulates the flow of traffic and prevents stop-start traffic caused by shockwave traffic jams. If no speed limit is shown, then the national speed limit applies. It is the law to abide to speed limits displayed in a red circle. If you don’t keep to the speed limit, you may receive a fine. This is also known as Variable Speed Limit.
• A broken white line indicates a normal lane. A Solid white line indicates the hard shoulder. Don’t drive in the hard shoulder unless directed to do so. If there is no sign, or a red X is displayed, then normal hard shoulder rules apply. So only use it in an emergency.

In Emergencies:
• If you are experiencing difficulties with your vehicle, exit the smart motorway as soon as possible, or move to the nearest place of safety. Prevention is best, so keep your car well maintained by checking your tyres and making sure you have enough fuel for your journey.
• Use refuge areas for emergencies when you can’t use the hard shoulder. Emergency refuge areas (ERA) are marked with blue signs and an orange SOS phone symbol. If you can leave your vehicle safely, contact Highways England (formerly known as Highways Agency) using the emergency phone. If it is not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, or if there is no place of safety outside, then you should stay put with your seatbelt fastened and dial ‘999’.
• Use your hazard lights if you break down. Make sure you have recovery arrangements in place and carry the details in your car at all times.

For motorway lessons or refresher training, get in touch with Tariq DVSA Master ADI on 07903 99 77 33 or alternatively visit these websites:


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