Smart motorways are a mystery to over 50% of drivers
Wed, 24 May 2017

With the rise of 'Smart' motorways, it is a concern that less than half of motorists know where to pull over safely when using these new, adaptable roads.

New figures have revealed a worryingly high number of motorists do not know where to pull over safely during an emergency. This shows that drivers do not know what an emergency refuge area is on a smart motorway. These short pull-ins are around 1.6 miles apart and are there for drivers to use as long as their vehicles are able to continue driving along to. 

By replacing the important but rarely used hard shoulders, Highways England is now converting existing motorways into ‘smart’ motorways and will eventually replace that section with an extra lane to cut down congestion and the ever-growing travel times, however figures are showing that drivers are not aware of what they are for and more needs to be done to prevent even more congestion.

In the next three years, more motorways are expected to have been upgraded and this will provide almost 500 additional miles of usable roads to the UK network.

Drivers are clearly unaware of what to do during an emergency when using a smart motorway. In 2016, the Transport Select Committee opposed the idea of converting hard shoulders into active lanes as "unacceptable", after it raised concerns regarding breakdowns and accidents. 

'Smart' motorways are not new, they've been around for over 10 years, yet through a lack of education, it's a worrying thought that around half of drivers know what to do in the event of a motorway breakdown. These emergency refuge areas have been created to wait safely until a breakdown service arrives.

Drivers should pull up to the indicated mark on the tarmac and with any occupants, leave the vehicle from the passenger side and stand behind the barriers. Once safe, using emergency telephones provided, call a Highways England representative.

'Smart' motorway safety tips 

·         Emergency refuge areas are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol on them. Drivers should continue driving to reach them only if their vehicle is safe to do so.

·         If it's safe to leave the vehicle, use the roadside emergency telephone provided to contact Highways England. A traffic officer will either be sent to help, or the motorway signs will be set to temporarily close lanes or reduce speed limits whilst you remain in the emergency refuge area. 

·         When planning to re-join the motorway another call is required so that further restrictions can be put in place to make this as safe as possible.

·         In an emergency, Highways England advises to call 999.

·         If drivers cannot get to an emergency refuge area but the vehicle can be driven, they must move it to the hard shoulder (where provided) or as close to the nearside verge or nearside boundary as possible.  

·         Turn on hazard warning lights, exit the car through the nearside door and stand on the far side of the safety barrier.

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