Concern that motorists don't understand smart motorways

Campaign group says that drivers are still unaware of what different motorway signs mean

It's been one year since the Highways Agency launched its smart motorway schemes, but the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has raised concerns that drivers are still confused by how to use them.

Part of the Agency's 'all-lane running' motorway project - which turns the hard shoulder in to an extra lane to ease congestion - was launched last April and replaced Managed Motorways.

The scheme was first used on a stretch of the M25, with similar operations then opened up on the M1, M4, M5, M6, M42, and M62. In addition all systems use lane control, overhead gantries and emergency refuge areas.

England's busiest A-roads could become 'mini-motorways'

However, the IAM says that motorists remain concerned about the saftey of cars that do break down and the distance between the safety refuge area.

The IAM conducted a survey on the introduction of smart motorways last year, which found 71 per cent of drivers said they would feel less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder than a motorway with one.

Some 40 per cent of respondents said they were sceptical that new monitoring systems on smart motorways, such as traffic detectors and CCTV, would protect them in the event of stopping in a running lane.

£15bn allocated for road upgrades

Sarah Sillars, IAM chief executive officer, 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.

“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. Ultimately, the smartest way to build awareness would be to allow learner drivers to use motorways under expert supervision.”

If you feel in the dark about how smart motorways work, here are a few tips on what the overhead signs mean:

  • • A red cross without flashing beacons indicates the lane is only for emergencies. If it has flashing beacons then do not use the lane at all.
  • • A speed limit inside a red circle means the lane is open to use at or below that limit.
  • • A white arrow with flashing beacons: This applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to.

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