Confusion reigns over UK’s smart motorways new survey reveals, as Transport Secretary brands them ‘wrong’


New research of over 7,000 UK drivers, conducted by Halfords, has revealed that 1 in 4 are confused about regulations on smart motorways, mistakenly believing that the hard shoulder can be used if there is no speed limit showing above, when in fact it is illegal to do so.

Often, where a dynamic hard shoulder is in operation, there will be a red X displayed above the lane when it is closed. However, no speed limit is also an indication that the lane is operating as a hard shoulder, not a running lane, as outlined on the Highways England website.

The survey comes at UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps reiterated plans for phase out dynamic hard shoulders altogether, speaking to the Transport Select Committee he said they were “insane”, and announced said that it was “entirely wrong” to roll out all-lane-running smart motorways at all, without the necessary stopped vehicle detection installed.

After making the comments Shapps brought forward the date for the completion of a new stopped vehicle detection network on all smart motorways slightly, from March 2023 to the end of 2022. And admitted that due to the amount of land that would need to be purchased to add lanes to existing roads, smart motorways remained the only viable way to increase capacity on the network at scale.

Currently the UK has 50 sections of smart motorway and another eight under construction, but the Halfords survey also revealed that more than two fifths (45%) of drivers don’t know you could be fined three penalty points for driving in a lane marked with a red ‘X’ on a smart motorway.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).