Smart Motorways – Part 3

How to Correctly Use Smart Motorways


With Smart Motorways being quite new, there’s still the need for correct education. Highways England spent millions on advertising via TV, Radio and Third-Party apps, yet people still seem to flout the rules. So, what exactly are the rules? Here are a few tips to get started:

  1. Don’t ever consider driving in a lane marked with a red “X”
  2. Keep to the speed limit as shown above, the latest gantry passed under is the speed limit to follow.
  3. A solid white line shows the hard shoulder lane, unless told to go into it, stay out.
  4. A line that is broken is a normal running lane.
  5. If your vehicle shows signs of not been healthy, exit the motorway ASAP!
  6. If there’s no hard shoulder, use the refuge areas.
  7. Use your hazards if you break down.
Know your motorways


Red X


When a red “X” is displayed, do not, I repeat, DO NOT travel down it, it indicates the lane is closed.

If you do travel down it you run the risk of getting a fine.

Typical reasons for the lane been closed are: Debris in the road, a person/animal on the road or there may be and accident or breakdown. It may also be used as a way of giving emergency services a lane to travel to an incident further ahead.

You are putting other peoples lives, along with yours at risk by travelling in the closed lane.

Red X

In an Emergency


Prevention is better than the cure, look after your vehicle, if you have a car from Surepass, no matter the age, it’ll have full AA cover including recovery to anywhere in the UK free of charge. If you don’t have a Surepass vehicle, make sure you get your own cover and keep details of the cover close by.

If your car starts to experience difficulties or you are involved in an accident, try to exit the motorway, if that’s not possible, Highways England recommend you “move to the nearest place of relative safety.”

Usually the nearest place of relative safety is the hard shoulder, this may not always be possible as the hard shoulder may be used as a running lane for normal traffic on Smart Motorways. If this is the case, you should move to the nearest ERA (Emergency Refuge Area).

If you make it to an ERA then use the SOS phone to call Highways England, inform your recovery company too. Don’t forget to flick those hazards on.

You may recognise this ad that was played over the air on a national campaign.


Personal Experience


It was 2am, I was half way between Plymouth and my destination, Manchester. I was on the M6 which had no hard shoulder when my cars’ fuel injectors packed in.

I pulled across to lane one, immediately putting on my hazards, gradually stopping. What amazed me as I initially sat there was how close to me lorries were getting before realising there was an obstruction (me).

I got out the nearside front door and got on the other side of the barrier, here’s the tip that you don’t see written anywhere online:

Do not wait on the other side of the barrier ahead of the vehicle. Doing so will potentially be fatal should another vehicle not see yours and smash into it, sending your car flying at you. On the otherside of the barrier, walk towards the traffic to safety and make the phone call.

Due to the danger of being in a live lane I opted to dial 999. I used the GPS on my phone to give an exact location. The police made the decision to inform Highways England, they then got to me in just under 8 minutes from when my initial call ended. They promptly took me to the nearest ERA. They told me it took 2 minutes from them learning about me to get the control centre to place a red X above the lane. It was then I learnt how dangerous it is to ignore the red X.

There were dozens of near misses in just 6 minutes, from lorries not paying attention to people not allowing people to enter lane two in time.




Written by Danny Atkin – Transport Director

Key material from Highways England

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