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Have asked yourself the question ‘what is a Smart Motorway?’ recently? With all of the road maintenance and upgrades that have been ongoing throughout the UK in recent years, you are one of many people who have been asking what a Smart Motorway is all about. In this post I will explain what a Smart Motorway is, outline the pros and cons of a Smart Motorway and give you some tips for driving on a Smart Motorway.
The Smart Motorway
The world of transport is changing. Innovative technologies are increasing efficiency, reducing accidents and saving the environment (OK not quite, but they are usually less pollutant than their former variations). And it’s a good job too. With 1,793 reported road deaths in 2017 and the highest levels of congestion ever seen, there is an urgent need for modernisation on our roads. One solution? The smart motorway.
What is a smart motorway?
A smart motorway is a section of a highway or motorway that uses specific traffic management methods to reduce the amount of congestion and traffic in high used areas. From the perspective of the driver, the road may not look very different, but the user experience should be that there is reduced traffic, particularly during peak times or when there is an incident.
Smart motorways monitor ongoing traffic, predicting peaks and troughs and instigating variable speed limits to help manage this. If, for example, there has been an accident further along the motorway, cars for miles behind will be instructed to slow down. This reduces the bottle neck caused by accidents and reduces or can even eliminate queuing time. The hard shoulder is also developed so that it can be used during time of congestion, adding an additional lane for drivers.
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Whilst you may have thought the roadworks on the M3 were never going to finish (I certainly felt that way after almost five years!), there is an evident improvement. I only wish it had been done prior to the 2 years that I commuted along this motorway in rush hour traffic!
What are the pros and cons of a smart motorway?
As with anything, there are people who are for a smart motorway and people who are against it.
One of the good things about a smart motorway is that it truly does cut down on the amount of traffic in areas where there is an abundance of commuters, such as the motorways surrounding the London area. By using variable speed limits and a “running lane” instead of a shoulder, areas where the most congestion exists have seen a significant decrease in this issue.
On the other hand, many travelers find a smart motorway to be dangerous without a hard shoulder. If a car breaks down or needs assistance, there is a decrease in space for them to stop and wait for assistance.
Also, there is an increased opportunity for drivers to get speeding tickets or other tickets because of the varying speed limits along a smart motorway. It is very important, therefore, for commuters to be aware of the rules and speed limits where they are on the motorway. These should be clearly marked on motorways with variable speed limits but if you are not paying attention then it is possible that you could miss it- maybe leave the radio station as it is for a while!
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Tips for driving on a smart motorway
There are a few things you can do, as a driver, to be successful on a smart motorway. Here are a few tips for driving on this type of motorway.
- Be aware of all traffic signs, speeds and rules.
- Pay attention to a solid white line which indicates a hard shoulder and therefore is not where you drive unless it is clearly posted.
- If there is no hard shoulder available and you have an emergency, find a refuge area which has a blue sign and has an orange telephone on the side of the road.
- A white line that is dotted or broken indicates that you can drive in this lane.
- There are fines that will be given if you ignore the red ‘X’ signs so it is important to be aware of the sign
Have you ever driven on a smart motorway? What was your experience? Comment below!