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Smarter driving

By: Dave Robbins
19 July 2017

Have you ever checked out the protocol for driving on smart motorways?

First introduced on the M25 three years ago, smart motorways use technology to keep traffic flowing. You might be forgiven if you haven’t, because the basics are intuitive: follow the overhead signs, stick within the speed limit and don’t drive in a lane where the overhead gantry is marked with a red ‘X’.

But what happens if your vehicle breaks down or you’re forced to make some other kind of emergency stop? Because smart motorways use the hard shoulder to keep traffic flowing, your normal emergency ‘bolt hole’ may not be available. Instead ‘Emergency Refuge Areas’ (ERAs) are situated at intervals along the carriageway, marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol.

The problem seems to be that a good number of drivers simply don’t know about ERAs or don’t realise that they’re there. In an effort to improve visibility, the Highways Agency is currently trialling more easily recognisable new style ERAs on the M3. The redesigned ERAs are designated with a bright orange road surface and better SOS signage. There are also an increased number of distance markers between ERAs alongside the carriageway.

In addition to the M3, sections of the M1, M4, M5, M6, M25, M42 and M62 are now smart motorways. So, on a ‘better to be prepared’ basis, if you haven’t already done so, it might be worth paying a quick visit to the Government website where you’ll find all you need to know about smart motorway protocol and what to do if your vehicle lets you down and there’s no hard shoulder to pull onto.

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