Automotive Tips & Guides

Know All About Driving On Smart Motorways

Smart motorways have been installed up all across the UK since Highways Agency begun to use the term in 2013, with a new study by BBC One Show displaying its benefits and advantages.

Join van hire and leasing professional Northgate as they dive into the past, present and future of smart motorways:

Driving On Smart Motorways

Smart Motorway

Before diving into the advantages of smart motorways, first let us take a look at just what they are.

Each lane of smart motorway makes use of machinery, which manages the traffic flow actively, with this technology being functioned by a regional traffic control centre near the roads. Traffic is carefully supervised at these control centres, whereby representatives are able to modify signs and speed limits accordingly on the smart motorways in an effort to always keep the traffic flowing freely.

Driving Tips for smart motorway

If you have never experienced driving on a smart motorway before, here is what you should bear in mind:

  • You must never drive in a lane that has a sign with a red ‘X’ over it — this means that the road is closed. You risk running a fine if you remain driving on this road.
  • If you see solid white lines between the two lanes, this indicates a hard shoulder — you shouldn’t drive in a hard shoulder unless engaged to do so.
  • If you see broken white lines between the two lanes, this indicates a standard running lane — you can drive in these lanes unless you see a red ‘X’ sign overhead.
  • The current speed limits of the lanes are shown on the gantries above — you should always match that limit.
  • You should exit a smart motorway as soon as it is safe to do so if your vehicle experiences difficulties, such as a warning light appearing on your dashboard.
  • When the hard shoulder is being used for normal traffic, you should be using the emergency refuge area (ERA) for an emergency. These are recognized by a sign that is blue and features an orange SOS telephone symbol.
  • If you breakdown before being able to exit a smart motorway or reach a refuge area, you must switch your hazard lights on and wait for assistance to arrive.

How safe are these motorways?

The effectiveness and safety of smart motorways were calculated by the aforementioned BBC One Show study, which examined eleven sections of smart motorway found on sections of the M1, M4, M6, M25 and M42.

According to the enquiry, there were 52,516 fixed penalty fines issued on these routes in 2015 as a result of drivers going over the speed limit. On the same sections of the motorway between 2010 and 2011, only 2,023 fixed penalty fines were issued for the offence — illustrating a 2,500 per cent increase over the past five years.

The BBC One Show also calculated from the data that it had collected that the revenue that went to central government has risen from £150,600 five years ago to over £1.1 million last year.

The Future of smart motorways

There is already in excess of 230 miles of smart motorway stretching across UK. However, Highways England is currently scheming many more miles of these routes through the below mentioned plans:

Current smart motorway work

  • The lanes between junction 19 and 16 of M1 in the Easy Midlands will be converted to a smart motorway, with the estimated completion date to be spring 2017.
  • The lanes between junction 32 and 35a of the M1 in the North of England will be converted to a smart motorway, with the estimated completion date to be spring 2017.
  • The lanes between junction 2 and 4a of the M3 in the South East of England will be converted to a smart motorway, with the estimated completion date to be summer 2017.
  • The lanes between junction 4a and 6 of the M5 in the West Midlands will be converted to a smart motorway, with the estimated completion date to be spring 2017.
  • The lanes between junction 16 and 19 of the M6 in the North West of England will be converted to a smart motorway, with the estimated completion date to be spring 2018.
  • The lanes between junction 8 of the M60 and junction 20 of the M62 in the North West of England will be converted to a smart motorway, with the estimated completion date to be autumn 2017.

Planned smart motorway work

  • There is a suggestion to turn the routes between junction 23a and 25 of M1 in the Ease Midlands to a smart motorway. If it is approved, the work will start from early and is estimated to get completed by late 2018.
  • There is a suggestion to turn the routes between junctions 3 and 12 of the M4 in the South East of England to a smart motorway. If it is approved, the work will start from early and is estimated to get completed by spring 2022.
  • There is a suggestion to turn the routes between junctions 13 and 15 of the M6 in the West Midlands to a smart motorway. If it is approved, the work will start from early and is estimated to get completed by spring 2020.

For more information regarding all future smart motorways across the UK can be found on the Highways England website.

About the author

Scott J Vargas

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