Smart Motorways – What Actually Are They and Why are They Deemed to Be Dangerous?

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Over the years, there have been many changes made to driving, and the rules, laws and guidelines that surround it. From using seatbelts to using chapter 8 chevrons like these there have been many changes made to the way we drive – even the UK driving test is very different now to how it was a couple of decades ago.

Of course, the rules of the road are based on safety most importantly, as well as the changing infrastructure of the UK and of course the increasing number of cars that are on the roads now, compared to previous decades.

One of the most recent and controversial new changes have been the introduction of smart motorways – this may have been something that you have heard about on the news recently – but what are smart motorways?

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These motorways were created to manage heavy traffic and congestion in certain areas. The intention is that they make driving easier on the motorway and reduce congestion and journey times. Some of the features of a smart motorway include variable speed limits and of course the fact that there is no hard shoulder. To add even more confusion to this subject there are a few different types of smart motorway too – so they are not all the same!

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These include the stretches of smart motorway with no hard shoulder ever – the hard shoulder is just another driving lane on these roads – however, this lane can be closed in the event of an accident (on the furthest left) and a large red X will be displayed when this lane is closed ahead, to alert drivers to get out of the lane.

Some smart motorways on the other hand do have a hard shoulder – sometimes! These stretches of motorway will use the hard shoulder as a lane however at times when the congestion is building up, so it is important to keep a look out for signage indicating this.

Some smart motorways retain a hard shoulder at all times however but will still use the variable speed limit changes so it is important to keep your eye out for these.

Since smart motorways were introduced, there has been a lot of concerns voiced about their safety. The fact that they do not have a hard shoulder is the main reason behind these concerns. They do have areas that are known as refuge areas, but these are not the same as a hard shoulder and many believe not as safe, as this potentially means that a vehicle can be stranded in a fast-moving lane of traffic, which of course increases the risk of an accident.

Because of this, it has recently been announced that the building of any new smart motorways in the UK has been temporarily suspended in order to address these safety concerns.

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