Rubén M.Cenzano

Chartered Civil Engineer specialised in Transportation

Ingeniero de Caminos especialista en Transporte

call for greater education for users of smart motorways

Posted On Wednesday, 2 September 2015



A survey conducted by the UK Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) on the introduction of smart motorways found 71% of drivers said they would feel less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder than a motorway with one.

Smart motorways were officially introduced in 2014 to replace Managed Motorways as the solution to the nation’s congested motorways but concerns have been raised over their safety. Smart motorways utilise variable speed limits and all-lane running, with lane control, overhead gantries and emergency refuge areas.

The IAM has expressed concern that widespread confusion still exists amongst motorway users on how best to use them, saying that Highways England must analyse incident data on a continuous basis and ensure that any lessons learned from the real-world use of smart motorways are implemented quickly. It claims that the smartest way to build awareness would be to allow learner drivers to use motorways under expert supervision.

The IAM has produced a set of tips on using Smart motorways, and how to react on seeing different signals:
  • A red cross without flashing beacons: The hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency or breakdown.
  • A speed limit inside a red circle: It is absolutely mandatory and may have cameras enforcing it.
  • A blank signal: Usual motorway rules apply.
  • A white arrow with flashing beacons: This applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to.
  • A red cross with flashing beacons: You should not continue to use the lane.
  • A national speed limit sign is shown: The national speed limit, 70mph maximum, applies to all lanes apart from the hard shoulder.
Pay attention to the overhead gantries as they provide information on traffic conditions and lane access for the road ahead. The signals are:
  • Controlled motorway – these have three or more lanes with variable speed limits. Hard shoulder use is strictly for emergency use only.
  • Hard shoulder running – the hard shoulder will be opened at busy times and the speed limit will be reduced. Don’t use the hard shoulder unless overhead signs show that you can do so.
  • All-lane running – there is no hard shoulder on these sections of the motorway. Obey the variable speed limits and do not stop on the motorway. In the event of an emergency, use an emergency refuge area, motorway service area or exit at the next junction.
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