From spring 2018 a new range of penalties are set to be introduced for drivers flouting the laws on smart motorways across the UK. Smart motorways are a fairly new concept but since 2016, Highways England, which introduced the programme to tackle congestion, has issued 80,000 warning letters to motorists who have broken their specific laws. The Home Office is now planning to use road-side cameras to detect violations and enforce new penalties, which all motorway drivers need to understand to stay safe.
What is a Smart Motorway?
The idea of a smart motorway is to increase capacity and reduce congestion without having a negative impact on the safety of drivers. Technology is used to monitor congestion levels and change the speed limit to smooth traffic flow, preventing the frustration that often comes with stop-start driving to improve journey reliability.
At peak times the hard shoulder is opened for traffic to use, with smart motorways signs changing to indicate this. At the same time, they can be used to close lanes when emergency vehicles need to get through, which should speed up dealing with any holdups. Overall, it’s a much cheaper and quicker alternative to road widening plans.
Introducing the New Penalties
Smart motorway signs display when a lane is closed with a red X. It is illegal to drive in a closed motorway or dual carriageway lane, but some drivers have been doing so, which falls under the offence of driving without due care or attention, or dangerous and reckless driving. This carries a penalty of between three and nine penalty points and an on the spot fine of £100 which can rise to £2,500 depending on the severity.
There are already smart motorway speed cameras and other cameras installed to monitor traffic conditions and speeding motorists. These are being trialled to monitor the number of drivers using closed lanes and then to catch any offenders.
How to Drive on Smart Motorways
Driving safely on a smart motorway is fairly straightforward and you can stay on the right side of these new driving laws by following these steps:
- Don’t drive on a lane closed by a red X
- Stick to the speed limits lit up by overhead signs
- If no speed limit is displayed, then the national limit applies
- Only drive in the hard shoulder when directed
- Where there is no hard shoulder, use the refuge areas for emergencies
- Put your hazard lights on if you break down
Where to Find Smart Motorways
There are 240 miles of smart motorways in the UK (480 miles of lanes), with more planned for the future. Most sections of smart motorways surround the UK’s largest cities and include parts of the M1, M62 and M60 in the north, the M6, M42 and M40 near Birmingham, M4 and M5 close to Bristol and of course the M25 around London.
Further plans for some of these smart motorways include using superfast 5G broadband to beam traffic information direct to phones. This would include details about heavy traffic, road diversions and more.
Stick to the rules of the road and you should have no problem obeying these new driving laws for smart motorways.
Image courtesy of iStock.