Smart motorways have been a controversial topic since they were first introduced, but like it or not they are here to stay. Highways England have revealed that they are investing £4.5 billion into adding an additional 400 miles of smart motorway in the next 5 years. So the chances are if you haven’t driven on one yet then you will do soon.
Smart motorways are a revolutionary new type of motorway, so naturally drivers have a lot of questions about them, such as what they are, what to do if you break down on one, whether they are more dangerous than conventional motorways, and whether you can be fined for using them incorrectly.
What is a Smart Motorway?
A smart motorway is a section of motorway that can increase capacity and reduce congestion in busy areas by using its own system of traffic management. This system involves using the hard shoulder as a live lane and using variable speed limits to control the speed and flow of traffic. They were introduced in 2008 as a way of improving the UK’s current motorway infrastructure with minimal impact to the environment while avoiding the time and costs of constructing motorways with additional lanes.
Are Smart Motorways Dangerous?
Many people believe that smart motorways are more dangerous than the motorways that we are used to due to the lack of hard shoulder. In a survey of 63 people, 68% thought that removing the hard shoulder of a motorway would compromise the safety of its users. However Highways England insist that since introducing smart motorways to key stretches across the UK, journey reliability has improved by 22%, and personal injury accidents have been reduced by more than half.
What Fines can I get on a Smart Motorway?
All the usual rules of the road and laws apply on smart motorways, just as they would on normal motorways. However, there are a few points that are worth a mention.
When it comes to speeding, the same laws and sentencing applies for smart motorways, but you have a much higher chance of being caught on a smart motorway due to the number of cameras. Also, not many people know the cameras that enforce the variable speed limits can also catch you for travelling over the national speed limit when the variable limit isn’t in place.
There is a new type of fine that only applies to smart motorways, and this is the red cross fine. A red cross on a smart motorway indicates that the lane is closed for moving traffic, and is likely being used as a hard shoulder. Therefore driving on a red cross lane can be extremely dangerous. You can expect to see a £100 fine and three penalty points on your licence if you are caught by a camera driving on a red cross lane.
What to do if you Break Down on a Smart Motorway
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in an accident or breakdown on a smart motorway then here’s what you need to do:
- If you can safely reach an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA), then do so.
- If this is not the case, then follow these steps:
- Try to move on to the verge if there is no safety barrier and it is safe to do so.
- Switch on your hazard warning lights
- If you stop on the nearside lane, then exit your vehicle via the left-hand door if it is safe to do so. Wait behind the safety barrier if there is one.
- If it is not possible to get to the nearside lane or exit your vehicle safely then you should stay in your vehicle with your seatbelt on and dial ‘999’ if you have access to a mobile phone.
- When the relevant authorities are aware of your vehicle, your lane will become a red cross lane and traffic will be unable to enter it.