There has been a lot of talk in recent years about smart motorways and how they will transform the way in which we drive. Smart motorways are intended to increase traffic capacities and ultimately lead to enhanced road safety.

Recently, smart motorways have moved from being merely an idea to actually being implemented. However, many people have concerns that these futuristic motorways could lead to problems and even be dangerous. To find out more about smart motorways and how they could affect you, read on.

What are Smart Motorways?

Anyone who regularly drives on motorways will know too well how congested they can get. Although motorways were originally designed to make moving from place to place quicker and more convenient, these days traffic jams on motorways is a common occurrence. Not only are traffic jams inconvenient, but research has also shown that this congestion costs around £2 billion each and every year.

Smart motorways have been designed to help resolve this issue. The aim is to create an extra 4,000 miles of capacity throughout the UK to dramatically reduce the congestion. The aim is to make the flow of traffic more efficient so that traffic jams become a thing of the past.

How Smart Motorways Work

In order to do this, traffic levels are being monitored through the use of special technology. When congestion issues are perceived to be on the horizon in a specific area, the speed limits in that area will be adjusted. The new speed limits are signalled to drivers using large boards that are set above traffic lanes. These boards are also used to make drivers away of upcoming traffic hazards so that they can adjust their route if possible. If lanes are closed during emergencies such as a crash, drivers are also alerted through these boards.

The Hard Shoulder

In times when congestion becomes significant, the hard shoulder of the motorway will be utilised to provide an extra lane for traffic to move along. On certain smart motorways, the hard shoulder will be transformed permanently into an additional lane.

The Benefits of Smart Motorways

In addition to reducing congestion and increasing the capacity of motorways, smart motorways are believed to have the potential to be more cost-effective. The reliability of journeys will increase, as motorists will no longer have to factor in the unknown extra drive time that congestion causes. Smart motorways are also believed to reduce the impact on the environment, as there will be less need to create additional motorways or significantly expand the existing motorways.

Can Smart Motorways be Dangerous?

Some people believe that permanently removing the hard shoulder could lead to an increase in accidents. This is due to the fact that motorists will no longer have a safe place to stop in the case of an emergency.

smart motorway

However, research has shown that the vast majority of stops on the hard shoulder are unnecessary. In fact, having a permanent hard shoulder can actually be dangerous, as motorists take advantage of the hard shoulder to illegally stop when they need a bathroom break or simply want to stretch their legs. Accidentally drifting into the hard shoulder due to a lack of concentration can lead to accidents. Removing the hard shoulder could lead people to take more frequent breaks at service stations to break up the journey.

Important Information for Motorists

In order to stay safe and out of trouble, it is important to remember not to drive in a motorway lane marked with a red X above it. The hard shoulder is marked with a solid white line and must be avoided unless otherwise directed. Normal traffic lanes are indicated with broken white lines.

What Should you do if you Break Down on a Smart Motorway?

If your vehicle experiences difficulties, you should exit the motorway as soon as possible and find a relatively safe place to stop. Ideally, look for an emergency refuge area, which is usually marked as ERA.

If you are unable to reach a designated ERA, try to move to the verge, unless there is a safety barrier in the way. Make sure that you turn on your hazard warning lights. If necessary, stop in your lane and call 999. The lane you are stopped in will be quickly marked with a red X to help keep the traffic around you flowing smoothly.

Before you hire a vehicle, it is important to be aware of the routes you plan to take and the possible changes to the motorways you will be using. If you are uncertain about the impact of smart motorways, feel free to contact a member of the Newbury Vehicle Hire team here.

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