Smarten up on smart motorways

Transport October 28, 2020

RSK’s Safe Driving Campaign, organised by RSK’s Safety, Health, Environment and Quality (SHEQ) team, was launched in July 2020 and aims to encourage RSK employees to think before they take to the driving seat. The fourth and final module, titled ‘driving essentials’, covers a range of useful information not covered by the previous modules (safe driver, safe vehicle and safe journey).

This includes guidance for using the UK’s smart motorways. The term ‘smart motorway’, coined in 2013, refers to a section of motorway that uses active traffic management techniques. Traffic flow can be controlled using variable speed limits displayed on the overhead gantries, and cameras monitor the motorway, thus enabling lanes to be closed remotely, if required.

“If you break down on a smart motorway, pull into an emergency refuge area wherever possible,” comments Alex McKinlay, RSK Group Fleet Manager. “These are denoted by blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol and feature at least every 1.5 miles. If this isn’t possible, and your vehicle can be driven, move it onto the hard shoulder or as close as possible to the nearside (left hand) verge. Switch on your hazard warning lights. If you can exit your vehicle safely, do so via the nearside door and wait beyond the safety barrier. Do not attempt to put out a warning triangle.

“Emergency refuge areas have free roadside telephones to call Highways England. This also provides your breakdown location. If you breakdown and are not in an emergency refuge area, call 999 immediately. If it’s not safe to get out, stay in the car with your seatbelt on and await help.”

Once the smart motorway control centre is aware of the incident, it will be able to set overhead signs and close the lane. When driving, a red X above any lane indicates that it is closed. It is illegal to drive in a lane closed by a red X sign.

Emergency refuge areas must only be used in the event of a breakdown or an accident. They are not to be used for a rest stop, toilet break or to make a phone call.