How Do You Drive on Smart Motorways?

According to one survey, more than half of us are getting it wrong.

West Yorkshire's 4 Lane Smart Motorway

There’s no shortage of smart motorways to take you between our numerous car and van rental depots. The M1 and M62 in particular have miles of ‘smart’ sections, but if a new KwikFit poll is anything to go by, most of us don’t know how to use them correctly.

As reported by This Is Money, 56% of UK drivers said they didn’t use the hard shoulder, despite the fact that on an ‘all lane running’ smart motorways, that’s exactly what you’re supposed to do. Apparently, after years of conditioning that has taught us that driving on the hard shoulder is a definite no-no, it’s proving a very hard habit for most of us to break, with 29% of drivers saying they were uncertain as to whether they should use the hard shoulder.

20% said they didn’t know when the hard shoulder was in use, whilst 13% rather worryingly said they thought the hard shoulder should never be driven on except in emergencies.

Improving smart safety

All of this confusion means improving the safety on our smart motorways is probably a good idea, and Highways England has announced modifications to emergency refuge areas on parts of the M1 and M62, two of the motorways you’ll likely be using most often as you take your hire car or van from our depots.

Refuges are a result of the hard shoulder becoming a ‘live’ lane and are designed to effectively provide an intermittent hard shoulder to give a place for motorists in trouble to pull over. Now, Motor 1 reports that improvements are set to be made to improve the signage at and visibility of the refuges so that:

  • They’re easier for motorists to spot
  • They’re easier for breakdown services to identify; and
  • They discourage any use that isn’t for emergencies

Be smart

So how are you supposed to drive your hire car on a smart motorway? Highways England confirms there are three types of smart motorway:

  • Dynamic: where the hard shoulder is temporarily opened up to traffic
  • All lane running: where the full width of the road is usable with emergency refuge areas alongside
  • Controlled motorway: with three or more lanes, a hard shoulder and variable speed limits

You should follow the instructions on the gantry signs overhead, and you should never drive in a lane with a red X above it.

You can find more here.

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