Smart motorways are just too smart for some drivers and what’s needed are lessons to make us cleverer, according to the police.

In a sign that the controversial scheme is here to stay, the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) said more awareness of the rules is needed, in order to improve compliance.

The announcement came as figures obtained by the BBC showed that there was an increase of almost a fifth (18%) in people caught using the hard shoulder illegally between 2014/15 and 2015/16.

Smart motorways are called smart because one of the technology’s main functions is to alter the speed limit depending on traffic levels, and open up the hard shoulder for use as a lane to reduce congestion.

But as previously blogged, the public wasn’t really informed of any of this and so confusion – and non-compliance – are the inevitable results.

The Transport Select Committee gave the Department for Transport a good kicking for this last summer and urged an immediate halt to the rollout of ‘all lane running’.

However, it doesn’t look like this will happen; instead, the NPCC is calling for us all to keep up at the back of the class.

One idea being discussed is to include courses for people who break the variable speed limit, use the hard shoulder when it isn’t in use, or use lanes closed with a red X.

“I genuinely don’t know that people understand when it is OK,” the NPCC’s lead for roads policing Suzette Davenport admitted to the BBC.

“Absolutely there are people who will now use the hard shoulder if there is a queue of traffic so they get off more quickly because they don’t want to sit in a queue.

“I’m not sure that would have happened say 15 years ago.”

One reason for this could just be motorists chancing their arm and exploiting the confusion that currently exists on 200 miles of motorway.

Public awareness and education are therefore needed, but that won’t happen immediately and in the meantime everyone is holding their breath that one smart idea doesn’t turn into a tremendously foolish mistake.

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