Smart motorways 'causing confusion'

Smart motorways 'causing confusion'

A year on from their introduction, drivers are still confused about smart motorways .

That is according to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM). It claims motorways users are not sure how best to use them, while some get nervous about the prospect.

The organisation has therefore produced a set of tips to help drivers use smart motorways.


Smart motorways are 'all-lane running' motorways, meaning there is no hard shoulder. The first in England - the 2.5 km stretch of the M25 between junctions 23 and 25 - opened on 14 April 2014.

Complete schemes, with variable speed limits and all-lane running, are now in operation on the M1 (Junctions 10-13), M4 (Junctions 19-20), M5 (Junctions 15-17), M6 (Junctions 4-10a), M42 (Junctions 3a-7) and M62 (Junctions 26-29/30).

All of the systems use lane control, overhead gantries and emergency refuge areas. But an IAM survey raises a number of concerns among motorists.

Some 71% of drivers said they would feel less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder than a motorway with one, particularly in the event of breakdown - while 40% were sceptical that new monitoring systems such as traffic detectors and CCTV would protect them in the event of stopping in a running lane.

Increase awareness

The IAM says there are many different motorway users out there and some are still confused and nervous about using smart motorways, while a report by Transport Focus suggests some drivers are not even aware of them.

Highways England must analyse incident data on a continuous basis and ensure that any lessons learned from the real world use of smart motorways are implemented quickly, says IAM chief executive officer Sarah Sillars.

She adds letting learner drivers use motorways under expert supervision is something that should be considered to increase awareness.

To help drivers familiarise themselves with smart motorways, the IAM put together a set of tips that explain what different signals represent. Some of the key points are:

¥ A red cross without flashing beacons means the hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency or breakdown

¥ A speed limit inside a red circle indicates it is absolutely mandatory and may have cameras enforcing it

¥ A blank signal implies usual motorway rules

¥ A white arrow with flashing beacons applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to

¥ A red cross with flashing beacons tells you to stop using the lane

¥ A national speed limit sign shows that 70mph applies to all lanes apart from the hard shoulder

Copyright Press Association 2015 (Highways England)