Smart motorways are not a new invention, but they still gain a lot of attention due to the accidents and fatalities that happen on them.
The measure was first introduced in 2006 on the M42 as a trial and was slowly widened until the ‘smart motorway’ name was coined in 2013.
What Are They?
The main aim of a smart motorway is to alleviate traffic build-up and congestion with monitored traffic management systems. One way this is done is ‘all-lane running’ which converts the hard shoulder into a functioning lane.
Why Are They Controversial?
This means there is no dedicated lane to pull up on in the event of a breakdown or an emergency. The controversy with this has been due to near-misses and fatalities occurring. In the majority of cases, a person has broken down and has had to pull up on the motorway, but due to it not having a hard shoulder- it is an active lane. Their car has then been smashed into by a vehicle and they have been killed.
In many cases of these fatalities, coroners and judges have ruled that the lack of a hard shoulder is a factor- even in instances of careless driving. In 2019 alone there were 14 fatalities on these stretches of road- which is an increase from 11 in 2018 and 5 in 2017. Although, Highways England has stated that smart motorways are as safe as the wider road network.
What To Do If You Break Down
If you are driving on a smart motorway, to make sure you are safe in the event of a breakdown, try to stop in an Emergency Refuge Area or an exit of the motorway. ERAs will have emergency contact SOS telephones so that you can call Regional Operations Centres and your vehicle can be monitored using CCTV.
If you do have to stop though, pull up on the left and turn your hazard warning lights on. Once you have come to a stop, you and your passengers should leave the vehicle from the left-hand side and stand behind the safety barrier.
If you have to remain in your vehicle, leave your ignition on and engine off so that your air bags can deploy- unless there is a risk of fire. Before you leave an ERA, you must contact the Regional Operations Centre to ensure your safety with temporary lane closures or a traffic officer.
If you are driving on a smart motorway and you see a red ‘X’ above one of the lanes, there may be an incident up ahead, maintenance work or emergency services. It is illegal to drive in these lanes and can carry a fine of £100 and a three-point penalty. Information such as lane closures and speed-limits will be displayed in each lane above the motorway on the information signs.
How Can We Help?
At Van Monkey, we want to make sure you are as safe as you can be on the roads, that is why we have our van driver toolkit. However, if you do run into trouble we can help there too. We have a 24/7 helpline 365 days of the year so you can call and get someone out to you as soon as possible under our VM Vehicle Maintenance service contracts.
As always, thanks for reading and we hope to speak to you soon!