Are Smart Motorways Safe?
The Latest Changes And Possible Dangers

In March 2020, the government stated that all smart motorways in the UK would become all-lane running. 

This means that the hard shoulder would be removed completely from certain stretches of road!

This motion has been paused temporarily and has received a significant amount of backlash from UK motorists. Unfortunately, these smart motorway changes could be raised again!

In this article, we’ll discuss what smart motorways are, how to use them, the latest changes and potential dangers.

In addition to this, we’ll showcase what Scrap Local can do for vehicles which are likely to break down on these roads.

What Are Smart Motorways?

Smart motorways use technology to regulate traffic flow and reduce congestion along a particular stretch of road.

In the UK, there are currently three types of smart motorway. These are:

A controlled smart motorway means that:

  • There’ll be three or more lanes with variable speed limits.
  • Hard shoulder is always available, but can only be used for emergencies.
  • Variable speed limits will be displayed on overhead gantries.
  • Solid white line differentiates the hard shoulder from the regular carriageway.

A dynamic smart motorway will do the following things:

  • Hard shoulder will become a running lane during busier periods.
  • Solid white line differentiates the hard shoulder from the regular carriageway.
  • Overhead signs on gantries show when the hard shoulder is open as a running lane.
  • Red “Xs” above the gantry tell motorists when lanes are closed including the hard shoulder.
  • Variable speed limits will be displayed on overhead gantries.

An all-lane running smart motorway includes the following:

  • No hard shoulder.
  • Turns what would be the hard shoulder into a running lane.
  • Solid white line differentiates the hard shoulder from the regular carriageway.
  • Red “Xs” above the gantry to indicate road closures.
  • Variable speed limits displayed on overhead gantries.
  • Emergency refuge areas at the side of the carriageway for those involved in an accident or break down.

The main difference between the three types of smart motorway is their use of the hard shoulder.

How To Use Smart Motorways

To keep yourself and others safe on smart motorways, you must follow the rules listed below:

  1. Stick to the speed limit shown.
  2. Do not drive in lanes with a red “X” above them.
  3. Only use the hard shoulder as a running lane if directed by signs or officials to do so.
  4. If the hard shoulder is being used as a running lane, then use the designated emergency refuge areas for emergencies.

HADECS 3 speed cameras are used on smart motorways to catch rule breakers with snapshots. You could be fined and receive points on your licence for failing to follow these rules!

More importantly, failure to comply with these rules could endanger yourself and others.

Which Motorways Are Smart Motorways?

Below we have provided a full list of the current smart motorways and where they operate specifically. 

Please keep in mind that more smart motorways could be introduced in the UK.

Smart motorways operate along the following stretches of road:

  • J6a to 10
  • J10 to 13
  • J25 to 28
  • J28 to 31
  • J32 to 35a
  • J39 to 42

The M3 currently has a smart motorway operating from J2 to 4a.

The M4 currently has a smart motorway operating from J19 to 20.

The M5 currently has a smart motorway operating from J15 to 17.

Smart motorways operate along the following stretches of road:

  • J4 to 5
  • J5 to 8
  • J8 to 10a
  • J8 to 18
  • J10a to 13
  • J18 to 20
  • J25 to 30

The M20 currently has a smart motorway operating from J4 to 7.

Smart motorways operate along the following stretches of road:

  • J2 to 3
  • J5 to 6/7
  • J7 to 8
  • J10 to 16
  • J18 to 10
  • J23 to 27
  • J27 to 30

The M26 currently has a smart motorway operating from J16 to 23.

On the M42 smart motorways operate along the following stretches of road:

  • J3a to M40 J16
  • J3a to 7
  • J7 to 9

On the M60 a smart motorway operates from J8 to 18.

The M62 currently has smart motorways operating from:

  • J18 to 20
  • J25 to 30
The Dangers Of Smart Motorways

Smart motorways are designed to reduce congestion and control the flow of traffic.

Despite this, the potential dangers of smart motorways often overshadow the positive impact they have on how we travel.

Some 40% of breakdowns on all-lane-running motorways take place in live lanes. This is too high. With stopped vehicle technology in place, it takes National Highways an average of one minute to close the lane.

Transport Committee, UK Parliament

The government’s latest motion to make all smart motorways all-lane running has received a large amount of backlash due to the complete removal of the hard shoulder, which currently safeguards those who encounter issues on the motorway.

This decision has been described by some as dangerous and deadly as the removal of a hard shoulder means that there’s no designated space for vehicles involved in emergencies to go.

Moreover, both the Department for Transport and Highways England have failed to fulfil promises to make safety improvements for all-lane running smart motorways.

According to the Transport Committee, more than half of drivers are still unclear on what to do if they break down in a running lane.

The committee has said that there is insufficient data on the smart motorway system either from an economic or safety perspective for the smart motorway programme to be continued.

MJ Woolf, World Highways

On the 2nd November 2021, MPs called for the roll-out of all-lane running smart motorways to be paused.

However, this is only temporary and these changes to smart motorways could be introduced once safety improvements, which are deemed to be sufficient by the government, have been made.

Scrap Local's Plea To Safeguard Motorists

Having received multiple phone calls from motorists who have broken down on fast paced roads, Scrap Local believes that smart motorways are unsafe as they currently stand.

Older models are more prone to mechanical faults and as winter approaches more vehicles will suffer from issues which could prove deadly in certain circumstances.

On top of this, there’s a large backlog of vehicles who haven’t passed their latest MOT due to Covid and are unequivocally dangerous on faster roads like smart motorways.

The current state of smart motorways and the proposed changes to these roads won’t help matters as motorists could find themselves stranded in live running lanes without any means of getting to safety.

Any vehicle which breaks down has to either drive to a refuge point and ring for help, or wait for the motorway control room operators to spot they are in trouble and block off that lane

Jane Tyler, Birmingham Live

Unfortunately, the safest and most cost-effective thing motorists can do is to scrap their older, less reliable vehicles.

Luckily, Scrap Local can help you remove your old set of wheels without any trouble!

We make the process of scrapping a car straightforward, offer free collection and will ensure that you have everything you need to remove your vehicle hassle-free.

Have A Question?

Whilst there are ongoing protests against these types of road, smart motorways don’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

Currently, the government’s motion to make all smart motorways all-lane running has been paused. However, this and other changes to smart motorways could be introduced.

For up to date information, please see the motorway section of the highway code

Whilst smart motorways aren’t mentioned by name in the highway code, the signs and signals used on these stretches of road are discussed.

The main disadvantages to smart motorways are:

  • The temporary closure or removal of a hard shoulder.
  • Unexpected changes to the speed limit.
  • Delayed changes to speed limits and closure signs on gantries.
  • Difficulties reaching an emergency refuge area during an emergency.

The latest motion to remove the hard shoulder from smart motorways has been temporarily paused as improvements to safety are required to reduce the number of accidents on these roads.

If you’re on a smart motorway where the hard shoulder is unavailable, then you should try to reach an emergency refuge area, stop in the layby and turn your hazard warning lights on.

Once you’ve done this, exit your vehicle from the passenger side door and stand by the crash barrier and as far from the road as possible.

If you can’t reach an emergency refuge area, then stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelt and hazard warning lights on, and call 999 for help.

Scrap Local

Scrap Local

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