posted 3 years ago

Safety Charity: Smart Motorways Cause “Widespread Confusion”

How A Smart Motorway Works

The Smart Motorway Network still causes “widespread confusion” one year after its launch, the Institute of Advanced Motorists has claimed. Its purpose is to increase capacity and enable traffic to flow more smoothly. Techniques include varying the speed limit and permitting vehicles to travel on the hard shoulder at busy times.

Instructions are passed to motorists via overhead gantries that incorporate a range of symbols. These confirm when the hard shoulder can be used, the speed limit and when to change lane – but not everyone knows what the symbols mean. The Institute's Chief Executive Officer, Sarah Sillars, said: “There are many different motorway users out there and some are still confused and nervous about using Smart Motorways – if they are aware of them at all.”

Tips For Using Smart Motorway

On this basis, the road safety charity has published a few tips:

  • “A red cross without flashing beacons: the hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency or breakdown. 
  • A speed limit inside a red circle: it is absolutely mandatory and may have cameras enforcing it. 
  • A blank signal: usual motorway rules apply. 
  • A white arrow with flashing beacons: this applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to. 
  • A red cross with flashing beacons: you should not continue to use the lane. 
  • A national speed limit sign is shown: the national speed limit, 70mph maximum, applies to all lanes apart from the hard shoulder. 
  • Pay attention to the overhead gantries as they provide information on traffic conditions and lane access for the road ahead. The signals are: 
  • Controlled motorway – these have three or more lanes with variable speed limits. Hard shoulder use is strictly for emergency use only. 
  • Hard shoulder running – the hard shoulder will be opened at busy times and the speed limit will be reduced. Don’t use the hard shoulder unless overhead signs show that you can do so. 
  • All-lane running – there is no hard shoulder on these sections of the motorway.  Obey the variable speed limits and do not stop on the motorway.
  • In the event of an emergency, use an emergency refuge area, motorway service area or exit at the next junction.”

Smart Motorway Network Locations

The Network – which looks set to expand in the near future - incorporates the M1 (Junctions 10 - 13), M25 (Junctions 23 - 25), M4 (Junctions 19 - 20), M5 (Junctions 15 - 17), M6 (Junctions 4 - 10A), M42 (Junctions 3A - 7) and the M62 (Junctions 26 - 29/30).


Never heard of smart motorways and everyone I've asked so far hasn't either.

The road safety charity doesn't help with its guide either could be explained in a lot clearer English! For example A red cross with flashing beacons: you should not continue to use the lane. Why not just say 'do not use this lane'