Smart motorways are becoming more frequent around Britain, but what do they actually mean and how should you be driving on them.
Smart motorways use traffic management methods to increase capacity and reduce congestion, particularly in busy areas. These smart motorways were developed to manage traffic in a way that minimises environmental impact, cost, and time as there is less of a need to build additional lanes. Highways England deployed three different types of smart motorway schemes.
Controlled motorways have three or more lands with variable speed limits throughout. The variable speed limits can range from 40-70mph and are primarily dependent on weather and traffic conditions.
Dynamic Hard Should scheme motorways can open the hard shoulder as a running line in order to ease congestion. In order to know whether you’re allowed to drive on the hard shoulder during busy times, overhead signs on gantries will indicate if it is open or not. They’ll also display the mandatory speed limit for the hard shoulder, once again dependent on driving conditions.
Rather than having the hard should as an accessible lane if needed, all lane running schemes running on smart motorways allow for the hard shoulder to permanently be used as a running lane for traffic. On this type of smart motorway, the hard shoulder is only closed to traffic via overhead and verge-mounted cantilever signs in the event of an accident.
From spring 2018, drivers can expect the enforcement of red X offences to commence. Although it is illegal to drive in a closed motorway lane, on smart motorways drivers seemingly get away with it. This offence falls under the category of dangerous driving. The Home Office is trialling road-side cameras that could automatically detect violations of red X lane driving. If caught, this could result in a fine between £100-£2,500 depending on the severity, as well as three penalty points.
Always drive safely and ensure you’re up to date on driving laws.