There are three different types of smart motorway in use in this country, which is pretty disturbing seeing as more than half of us don’t understand how any of them work.

This has been an issue for some time now, but very little has been done to publicise their use.

The first smart motorway came into force 10 years ago but many drivers don’t encounter them regularly and wouldn’t fully understand what to do if they found themselves driving on one.

The three types are controlled motorways, dynamic hard shoulder running schemes and all lane running schemes.

An RAC study found that 52% of 2,000 drivers interviewed didn’t know that emergency refuge areas (ERAs) on a smart motorway acts as a refuge for accident stricken or broken down vehicles, in the absence of the hard shoulder – which is used as an extra running lane for traffic.

Almost two thirds (64%) are unaware of the correct procedure for what to do once stopped on an ERA and 65% don’t know how to re-join traffic.

Only one respondent knew that they needed to contact Highways England to help them back on to the motorway if the hard shoulder was operating as a running lane.

But none of this should be used as stick with which to beat motorists.

If the public hasn’t been adequately informed how to behave on a smart motorway, is it any wonder very few drivers are confident about the rules?

Hopefully, this will change; the RAC says Highways England has run a radio advertising campaign on the subject and it is also conducting a review of ERAs, the findings of which will be reported.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley says: “For anyone who hasn’t driven on a smart motorway there are some very noticeable differences, the main ones being that there is no permanent hard shoulder, overhead gantries with variable mandatory speed limits, emergency refuge areas spaced up to 2.5km apart and variable message signs.”

More detailed information on what smart motorways are, their locations, what the difference is between the three types and how to use them all can be found here.

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