I thought I’d write up a bit about smart motorways as most people will be unfamiliar with them. The closest to us is past Bristol so even on a 3 hour motorway lesson we may not make it as far as the smart motorway. They are becoming more common, especially in busier areas and gradually motorways are being converted. There are not many differences but they are designed to ease congestion and help traffic flow better.
Types of smart motorway:
Controlled motorway – 3+ lanes with variable speed limits shown overhead. These are mandatory and are often accompanied by speed cameras so make sure you obey them. They are designed to reduce the speed of traffic when there is a problem ahead so it may look like the traffic is running freely at that moment so you may think it’s not worth slowing down but it works the same way as any other speed limit sign. The hard shoulder is used as normal so just for emergencies.
All-lane running – the hard shoulder is permanently used as an extra lane. Refuge areas are provided at least every 2500 metres in case of a breakdown or emergency. Overhead signs give drivers regular updates. They can also have variable speed limits as with controlled motorways.
Dynamic hard shoulder – during busy periods the hard shoulder is converted into a normal lane, this could be just for a particular exit or for all traffic so ensure you read signs carefully. If the sign above the hard shoulder is showing a red ‘X’ it is not currently used as a driving lane so you should only enter it in an emergency. They can also have variable speed limits as with controlled motorways.
General hints and tips:
If a lane is displaying a red ‘X’ on the overhead sign do not continue in that lane as it means there is a problem ahead.
If you have a problem with your vehicle try to leave the motorway at the next exit or service area, if that is not possible and the hard shoulder is in use as a driving lane stop in an emergency refuge area. If you cannot reach a refuge area get your car as far off the carriageway to the left as possible.