Driver Hub  Driving advice  On the motorway   Smart motorways
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Chloe Martell profile

Chloe Martell

April 5, 2018

Driving advice 3 min read

It goes without saying that driving on a motorway is a milestone in your driving journey. Hopefully, when learners are allowed on the motorway, it will help combat the fear of the motorway that builds up for many new drivers! So what is a smart motorway – and more importantly, do you drive differently on it than you would normally?

What is a smart motorway?

A smart motorway is a section of a motorway in Britain that uses technology during busy times. According to the gov website: “A smart motorway uses technology to actively manage the flow of traffic… Smart motorways increase the capacity of the road, by either temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to traffic”. Those big signs hanging over your head as you’re driving along? Pay attention to them, because there is a chance they’re letting you know which lanes you can and can’t drive in. They may also change the speed limit so whilst the national speed limit it 70 mph, it could be reduced to avoid stop-start driving conditions on the motorway.

How to drive on a smart motorway

There are no different rules to driving on a smart motorway to how you normally would, but you need to be aware of the variable speed limit. News has broken that if you are driving over 70 mph on a smart motorway, technology will catch this 24 hours a day and you could land a hefty fine – but since we all should be sticking to the speed limit anyway, it doesn’t make much difference! Just know you will have to be cautious and not think you can put your foot down that bit more. Those extra mph aren’t worth a fine and points on your licence, are they?

Top tips

  • If a lane is marked by a red X – don’t drive in it
  • Keep to the speed limit (obviously), and be aware it may vary depending on driving conditions
  • If you have car trouble, or any warning lights appear when you’re on a smart motorway, exit as soon as possible.
  • A solid white line separates the hard shoulder. Unless directed to, you can’t drive on here.

In the event of an emergency

If you’re driving along a smart motorway and your vehicle becomes damaged or you experience difficulties, you will need to stop in a safe area. On a smart motorway, chances are there will not be a hard shoulder, or if there is – it will be open to traffic, so you will have to find the safest place you can to stop.

  • Use an emergency refuge area (ERA). They’re spaced regularly along a smart motorway.
  • If you can leave your car, use the roadside emergency phone to contact Highways England.
  • If you can’t make an ERA, try and move your vehicle to the hard shoulder, or as close to the verge as possible.
  • Don’t forget – you will need to put your hazard lights on!

If you’re worried about driving on a Motorway for the first time, we’ve got some great advice for you, in our Motorway driving article.

Chloe Martell profile

By Chloe Martell

'As a new driver, I'm so eager to share my driving journey with you all - from when I was a learner, going through my test and all the aspects of my driving life now, including my love of cars!'  See more posts by Chloe

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