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Keep safe on smart motorways

Smart motorways are becoming a more common feature on UK roads. Concerned drivers are unsure how to use them properly and safely.

Arnold Clark Vehicle Management has put together some information to ensure you remain safe when driving on smart motorways.

What is a smart motorway?

Smart motorways use different technology-driven methods to increase vehicle capacity and reduce congestion. The hard shoulder is used, either permanently or at peak times, as a running lane to increase capacity. Technology is used to monitor congestion and change the speed limit accordingly in order to improve traffic flow.

Highways England is responsible for smart motorways in England.

Red X

When you see a red X on an overhead sign above a motorway lane you should move out of the lane as soon as it’s safe to do so. There may be an accident or breakdown on the road ahead so it’s important to never drive in a red X lane. If you’re caught driving in a lane that’s closed, you can receive a fine.

Speed limit

On a smart motorway, speed limits appear on overhead signs and can be changed at different times. If there’s no speed limit displayed then the national speed limit applies.

A speed limit displayed inside a red circle is legally enforceable.


In an emergency, you should exit the motorway as soon as possible. If you’re unable to exit the motorway you should pull over on the hard shoulder and switch on your hazard lights. A hard shoulder can be clearly identified with a solid white unbroken line.

If you’re on a smart motorway and there isn’t a hard shoulder, you need to:

  • Make your way to the nearest emergency refuge area (ERA) marked with blue signs and an orange SOS telephone symbol. Use the emergency telephone to contact Highways England.
  • Move your vehicle to the nearside verge or boundary if your vehicle can be driven but you can’t reach an ERA.
  • Use the passenger door to get out of your vehicle if it’s safe to do so and wait behind the safety barrier.

If you’re unable to pull over and it’s not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, you should keep your seat belt on and phone ‘999’. Smart motorway technology can be used to set overhead signs and close the lane to keep traffic away from you.

Roadside recovery vehicles - Slow down and move over

With the absence of a hard shoulder, the safety of roadside recovery workers and vehicles on smart motorways is more important than ever. The ‘slow down and move over’ campaign has been promoted by the roadside recovery and breakdown industry.

Arnold Clark Vehicle Management’s partnership with the AA allows us to cover accident management and elements of risk aversion for our customers. We have a vested interest in the safety and protection of roadside recovery workers.

By driving with caution, slowing down and moving over, we can reduce the risk of accidents and collisions. Follow these rules to protect your own safety as well as that of roadside recovery workers.

Slow down - when passing a recovery vehicle or worker on the side of the motorway. If your speed is reduced, the risk is reduced.

Make space - between your car and the roadside recovery operation. Change lanes if it is safe to do so.

Move over - pass the breakdown as quickly as possible. Don’t slow down to stare at the accident – it causes distraction and leads to unnecessary traffic behind you.

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