Van Drivers on Smart Motorways
- Created: 10 June 2022
There has been significant bad press about the safety of smart motorways, with certain campaign groups and media outlets saying that the number of deaths per mile of smart motorways is significantly higher than on ordinary motorways.
However, the government remains committed to implementing the All Lanes Running (ALR) routes as a means to reducing congestion on some of the country's busiest highways.
A quick look at the press reporting reveals the apparent risks of smart motorways when there is no hard shoulder available to be used in the event of a breakdown or minor collision and, of course, they tell of the tragic consequences.
At this time, there seems no indication that the government is likely to halt the building of smart motorways or reinstate permanent hard shoulders onto those which have been converted, so, as van insurance providers, we feel the best thing we can do is to help spread the safety message to motorists about what smart motorways are and how to use them as safely as possible.
Staying safe on a smart motorway
Smart motorways are predominantly designed to be able to reduce traffic congestion by using variable speed limits and an extra lane of traffic (in most cases this was previously the hard shoulder). Overhead screens provide notifications for each lane about speed limits and to open and close lanes so as to control traffic and prevent the build-up of queues approaching an incident.
If you see a red cross on the screen above a lane, you must not use it. Move out of the lane as soon as it is safe to do so.
If you drive in a lane with a red cross, you are breaking the law and could be fined. A closed lane could be due to a breakdown or other incident on the road and you run the risk of a collision if you continue using it.
What to do if you break down on a smart motorway
If your vehicle is showing signs of malfunction while travelling on a smart motorway, you should safely move left across the lanes and leave at the next junction or service area.
Alternatively, you can pull into one of the yellow/orange emergency areas where you will find an emergency roadside phone (there are separate provisions for those with hearing, speech, or physical impairments who are unable to use an emergency phone).
You should exit to the left of the vehicle (furthest from the traffic) if there is a safe place to move to – get behind a safety barrier if there is one. Do not put a warning triangle out and do not attempt to fix your vehicle at the roadside. If it is dark, keep your side lights on. If there is poor visibility use your fog lights.
If you break down in a live lane of traffic and are unable to drive your vehicle off the road or make a safe exit due to traffic, you should:
- keep your seatbelt fastened;
- put on your hazard warning lights, and;
- DIAL 999 IMMEDIATELY.
You should also follow the advice above if you have suffered a collision and need to stop your vehicle to check for damage or exchange insurance details. Never stand in the live lane to check for damage or exchange details. Always move away from the lane onto a verge or stand behind the barriers.
Stopped vehicles on smart motorways
Stopped vehicles are one of the most dangerous situations on all motorways. Smart motorways include lots of technology, including radar sensors, to detect stopped vehicles and manage the traffic around them. National Highways say they detect stopped vehicles typically within 20 seconds.
The most important thing is to keep calm and assess the situation carefully before getting out of your vehicle.
If you stop in an emergency area, you should always use the phone to notify the traffic monitors. They can arrange assistance and, even if you don't require immediate help, they may need to close the closest live lane so that you can safely exit the emergency area.
Staying safe, staying protected
While we cannot prevent breakdowns and collisions, we can help you stay aware of changing driving conditions and laws via our blog.
For van insurance quotes click on the get a quote button now, or call us on 0345 646 1386 to speak to an adviser.