This is how Highways England says you should drive on a ‘smart motorway’
Back in June, after a seemingly endless and interminable program of roadworks, the Surrey stretch of the M3 officially became a section of so-called “smart motorway”.
The smart motorway scheme was first introduced in the West Midlands in 2006 on the M42. It’s aim is to improve safely along some of Britain’s busiest motorways – and increase capacity.
Since then, the plans have been extended and rolled out across the country.
Surrey and Hampshire’s smart motorway is a 13.4-mile stretch of road between junction 4A for Farnborough to the west and junction 2 for the M25 to the east.
The upgrade cost £174 million and took three-and-a-half years to complete. Don’t think that wasn’t lost on many residents, especially in villages such as Windlesham.
The idea of the smart motorway is to better manage increasing amounts of traffic on our roads, with many of the schemes starting out as road-widening plans by removing hard shoulders.
Smart motorways use various technologies to manage the flow of traffic.
Regional control centres watch traffic carefully and change signs and speed limits in real time – this is supposed to allow traffic to flow faster and more safely.
Recently, there have several incident on Surrey’s M3’s smart motorway section.
On Saturday (December 2) nine people were hurt, one seriously, in a collision near Camberley.
A few days earlier, motorists Clifford Russell supplied Get Surrey dashcam footage from an incident long the same stretch when his car was hit by a lorry.
The video was shot back on March, while the roadworks were ongoing, but nonetheless show the effect of there being no hard shoulder.
“If there had been a hard shoulder, I’d have had somewhere to go,” he said, while a number of other Surrey motorists have been in touch to raise their concerns.
So how DO you drive on a smart motorway safely? Is there anything you have to do differently?
This week, Highways England reissued its guidance on smart motorway driving – and these are some of the key points motorists are urged to bear in mind.
- Never drive in a lane closed a red “X”. Stick to the speed limit displayed on the gantries
- Solid white line indicates the hard shoulder – don’t drive on it unless directed
- Broken white lines are normal running lanes – if your vehicle experiences difficulties, exit the smart motorway immediately if possible.
- Use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
- Put your hazard lights on if you break down – this goes for any time of day
One of the most important things to look out for on a smart motorway is the red X.
Move out of the lane if there is a red X as quickly and safely as possible and do not re-enter it until prompted.
There are many reasons for lane closures including debris, animals and accidents in the road.
Always keep your car well maintained, don’t risk a long journey on a smart motorway if your car is experiencing difficulties.
Smart motorways may not always have hard shoulders, therefore you need to a refuge area. The refuge areas are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol.
If you can leave your vehicle safely, contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephone provided in all emergency refuge areas.
If you cannot get to a refuge area but the vehicle can be driven, move it to the hard shoulder if there is one or as close to the nearside verge or other nearside boundary as possible.
Always put your hazard lights on.
Dial 999 if you have a working phone and can’t exit the vehicle safely or there is no safe space to wait in outside the vehicle.
Smart motorway regional control centre will try to steer traffic away from you using the technology available to them.
Speeds limits on smart motorways should appear on lit up overhead on gantries.
Limits change to manage varying traffic flows. If no limit is displayed, the national speed limit applies.
Speed cameras are in operation on smart motorways, and you could be fined for breaking the speed limit.
Smart motorways don’t always have hard shoulders.
Highways England has installed periodic refuge areas where there isn’t a hard shoulder.
Sometimes, the hard shoulder may be opened up for traffic on a smart motorway at busy times.