Smarter Driving? We get the low down on driving on smart motorways

busy smart motorwayAre you happy driving on a smart motorway? First introduced on the M25 three years ago, smart motorways use technology to keep traffic flowing. However, a survey by the AA of more than 19,500 members more than a fifth thought them dangerous. They were much happier on a traditional motorway with a hard shoulder.

Part of the problem might be that drivers haven’t checked out the smart motorway driving protocol. The basics are intuitive: follow the overhead signs, stick within the speed limit and don’t drive in a lane where the overhead gantry is marked with a red ‘X’.

But what happens if your vehicle breaks down or you’re forced to make some other kind of emergency stop? Because smart motorways use the hard shoulder to keep traffic flowing, your normal emergency ‘bolt hole’ may not be available. Instead ‘Emergency Refuge Areas’ (ERAs) are situated at intervals along the carriageway, marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol.

The problem seems to be that a good number of drivers simply don’t know about ERAs or don’t realise that they’re there. In an effort to improve visibility, the Highways Agency is currently trialling more easily recognisable new style ERAs on the M3. The redesigned ERAs are designated with a bright orange road surface and better SOS signage. There are also an increased number of distance markers between ERAs alongside the carriageway.

In addition to the M3, sections of the M1, M6, M25 and M62 are now all-lane running smart motorways. So, on a ‘better to be prepared’ basis, if you haven’t already done so, it might be worth paying a quick visit to the Government website where you’ll find all you need to know about smart motorway protocol and what to do if your vehicle lets you down and there’s no hard shoulder to pull onto.

Anticipated Fines

Since December 2016 around 80,000 letters have been issued to motorists who have broken the smart motorway rules. This has been as part of trialling and testing road-side cameras to detect lane violations. It is anticipated that Drivers could face fines of £100 and three penalty points on their licence from as early as March 2018 in a bid to reduce “dangerous” drivers who ignore the red ‘X’.

If you have drivers who are regularly up and down the country on our motorways then it makes sense to keep a check on the status of their driving licence with regular checks via an online service such as dh Licence Check.


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