Top tips for staying safe on SMART motorways

Motorists are fearful of SMART motorways but the IAM has a few tips for staying safe.

The introduction of SMART motorways is causing anxiety among many drivers, new research has revealed.

According to a poll by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), 71 per cent would feel less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder.

There is also concern over plans to increase the distance between safety refuges. Indeed, 48 per cent of drivers believe the refuges should be no more than 500 yards (0.45 km) apart.

Luckily, the IAM has released a few tips on how to stay safe on a SMART motorway and, as with most things, knowledge will be your greatest weapon.

What is a SMART motorway?

A SMART motorway uses a variety of technology to vary speed limits in response to driving conditions and make the hard shoulder available to traffic either permanently or at particularly busy times of the day.

The motorways are managed by regional control centres run by the Highways Agency. They use CCTV so traffic officers can be sent out to incidents as and when they occur to traffic moving.

There are three types of smart motorway: Controlled, hard shoulder running and all lane running.

Controlled motorways have three or more lanes, each with variable speed limits. On these highways, the hard shoulder is only usable in a "genuine emergency".

On a hard shoulder running motorway, the hard shoulder is opened at busy times with the reduced speed limit. Drivers can only use the lane if signs say they are able to do so, however.

Finally, all lane running motorways have no hard shoulder. They have variable speed limits and do not stop on the motorway. In cases of an emergency, drivers have to use one of the refuge areas, motorway service area, or exit junction.

Concerns over SMART motorways

The government's SMART motorways haven't exactly been met with open arms. Drivers have concern over the safety of the scheme and 42 per cent don't have faith that the new monitoring systems will protect them if they stop in a running lane.

There also appears to be a lack of knowledge about the scheme, with 67 per cent of respondents to IAM's survey claiming they haven't seen any publicity about SMART motorways.

Driving etiquette is also a bone of contention and 32 per cent want to legalise undertaking on SMART motorways to improve the experience.

However, not everyone has met the changes with scepticism and 42 per cent believe SMART motorways have reduced congestion. Forty-three per cent also claim the new schemes have improved their journey times.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: "SMART motorways are being rolled out across England but our survey shows that drivers want more reassurance and information on how safe they will be and how to use them.  The IAM has been supportive of hard shoulder running but we have always said that the Highways Agency must be quick to learn and implement any real world lessons as more schemes come into use."

How to stay safe on SMART motorways

The IAM claims there are a few important things drivers should remember when approaching managed motorways to ensure they stay safe,

Perhaps most importantly is reading the overhead gantries, as these provide information on traffic conditions and lane access.

There are six signals that people need to be aware of. The first is a red cross without flashing beacons, which indicates hard shoulder use only in an emergency or breakdown.

A speed limit inside a red circle indicates a mandatory speed and the possible existence of cameras to enforce it.

Should there be a blank signal, normal motorway rules apply, while a white arrow with flashing beacons indicates that drivers should move into the lane which the arrow points to.

A red cross with flashing beacons means that drivers should not continue using the lane.

Finally, when a national speed limit sign is shown, all lanes should follow it apart from the hard shoulder.

Drivers should make sure they're aware of the meaning behind each of the signals and stay alert when on a SMART motorway.

If you're taking a trip, plan your journey ahead to see if you will encounter any highways running on the new system.

Be sure your vehicle is in good condition before undertaking any motorway driving to limit risk.

  • On: 21 May 2014
  • By: CarShop

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