Highways England (HE) has introduced the first of a new-style smart motorway emergency area, where drivers can stop if they experience urgent problems. The new system is being trialled on the M3 in Surrey.
HE’s new, redesigned emergency area has a highly visible orange road surface and better signs to help improve its visibility, in order to make it more obvious to drivers on smart motorways. It is also hoped that it will encourage drivers to only use them in emergency situations.
The first of the new emergency areas went live on the M3 near Camberley last week, and more upgrades are planned should the trial be successful. The change is part of an ongoing review into the design and spacing of emergency areas on smart motorways that is due to report in the autumn.
Smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle frustrating stop-start congestion; new technology to give drivers better information on road conditions ahead; and, in upgrades delivered since 2004, convert the hard shoulder into an extra traffic lane. The redesigned emergency area supports HE’s drive to improve awareness of smart motorway driving, including what to do in an emergency and when to use an emergency area. It sits alongside a national TV, radio and social media campaign covering key themes, such as not driving in lanes closed by red X signs, how to stop in an emergency, and how to avoid unnecessary breakdowns.
“We know that smart motorways are safe. But we also recognize that drivers need to have confidence when using them and be clear about where they can stop in an emergency,” explained HE’s chief executive, Jim O’Sullivan. “That is why we are trialling these highly visible new style emergency areas. The bright orange coloring will make them as easy as possible to spot, and should also discourage drivers from using them in non-emergency situations. This is just one of the ways we are helping drivers to understand smart motorways and their benefits.”
UK Transport Secretary Chris Grayling noted, “Our roads are some of the safest in the world, but we are always looking at making them safer. Smart motorways are adding extra lanes to our busiest motorways and, as recent evidence shows, reducing the rate of crashes. We are making emergency refuge areas more visible to ensure motorists in trouble can easily identify where to stop safely.”