A trial is underway of a new style smart motorway emergency area on the M3 in Surrey, enabling drivers to stop in an emergency.
The re-designed emergency area has a highly visible orange road surface and better signs to help improve its visibility 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, says Highways England.
The first of the new emergency areas went live on the M3 near Camberley and further upgrades are planned if the trial is successful.
The new motorway emergency area is part of an ongoing review into the design and spacing of emergency areas on smart motorways, which is due to report in the autumn.
Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan said:
“We know that smart motorways are safe – but we also recognise that drivers need to have confidence when using them and be clear about where they can stop in an emergency.
“That is why we are trialling these highly visible new style emergency areas – the bright orange colouring 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 – I hope it helps drivers feel more confident about using a smart motorway.”
Smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle frustrating stop-start congestion, as well as new technology to give drivers better information on road conditions ahead. In smart motorway upgrades delivered since 2004, the hard shoulder is also converted into an extra traffic lane.
Evidence shows that smart motorways are successfully adding extra capacity, improving journey times – and are just as safe as conventional motorways, says Highways England.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said:
“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.
“The re-designed emergency area supports Highways England’s drive to improve awareness of smart motorway driving, including what to do in an emergency and when to use an emergency area.”
A national TV, radio and social media campaign also covers key themes, such as not driving in lanes closed by Red X signs, how to stop in an emergency – and the importance of carrying out appropriate vehicle checks, including checking fuel levels before setting out on a journey to avoid unnecessary breakdowns.
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