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Smart motorways - Everything you need to know

Thursday, 04 January 2018 GMT
Author: Staveley Head

Our roads have been getting smarter! Have you noticed? Smart motorways are the newest addition to the UK road network, with more and more motorways adopting this updated approach to their roads. 

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So, what are smart motorways?

It has been stated that a smart motorway uses technology to actively manage the flow of traffic. The technology is controlled from a regional traffic control centre. The control centres carefully monitor traffic and can activate and change signs and speed limits instantly. The purpose of smart motorways is to increase capacity and relieve congestion while maintaining safety thus helping traffic flow freely.

Smart motorways increase the capacity of the road, without the expense and hassle of widening it. By either temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to traffic.

Smart motorways run in a variety of ways to meet scheme operational requirements these include:

Controlled motorways

All types of smart motorways include variable mandatory speed limits, the red ring speed restriction found overhead, which is legally enforced. A controlled motorway will have three or more lanes available with variable speed limits.

The variable speed limits are determined by vehicle detection equipment, installed at strategic locations to monitor traffic conditions.

Hard shoulder running

This smart motorway scheme involves the use of the hard shoulder lane for vehicles during busier periods, in a bid to ease congestion. Motorists can differentiate the hard shoulder lane by the solid white line separating it from the normal carriageway. The signs on the overhead platforms will indicate whether or not the hard shoulder is available for use.

All lanes running

The all running lane scheme suggests just that, all lanes running, with the hard shoulder performing as a permanent lane for traffic. The overhead structures will, like all other schemes, display signs with the mandatory speed limits.

How to use smart motorways

If you’re new to the smart motorway way of life, we can help! Here’s a list that you can follow to keep safe on the roads:

  • Stay out of any carriageway that has a red X in the display signs overhead.
  • Broken white lines indicate a normal running carriageway.
  • Stick to the speed limits indicated on the overhead signs.
  • Solid white lines indicate the hard shoulder, do not use these roads unless instructed to do so.

What you should do if your vehicle breaks down on a smart motorway

In the instance that your vehicle develops a problem while on a smart motorway it is advised that you try to exit the motorway at the next exit. If this isn’t possible, then you can do the following:

  • If you can’t move to your nearest emergency refuge area then try and remove your vehicle from the carriageway.
  • If you can’t move your vehicle from a traffic lane, turn on your hazard lights as soon as possible.
  • If you’re in the left-hand lane, get out of the vehicle via the passenger left hand side but only if it is safe to do so.
  • If you’re not in a safe enough place to get out of your vehicle, remain seated with your seat belt on and call the emergency services immediately.
  • If you can stop in your nearest ERA (emergency refuge area), you must use the SOS phone to contact the Regional Control Centre when you stop and before you leave.

As providers of breakdown insurance we can get you the cover you need, so in the event of a breakdown you’ll have peace of mind knowing that you’re covered.

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