Poll reveals confusion over smart motorway hard shoulder

6 Sep 2019

Many drivers do not know the rules of smart motorway driving, it has been found.

A new poll has revealed that many drivers are confused over the rules governing use of the hard shoulder on smart motorways, something that has the potential to lead to accidents.

Kwik Fit found 56 per cent of motorists reported avoiding driving on the hard shoulder when they are using smart motorways, even when the signage indicates it is open.

When asked why, 29 per cent said they are uncertain when exactly they are permitted to drive on the hard shoulder, while 25 per cent were worried about encountering a stationary vehicle in their path ahead.

A quarter of those polled said they do not feel smart motorways are safe and therefore intend to drive as though they are on a traditional motorway, while 14 per cent were concerned about the lack of an escape lane should they have to change lanes quickly.

Only 42 per cent of drivers correctly stated that it is legal to drive on a smart motorway's hard shoulder when the overhead signs direct motorists to do so.

Worryingly, 15 per cent of respondents said they thought a blank sign meant the hard shoulder was open when it actually means it is closed, while 45 per cent said flashing amber lights with an arrow indicated an open lane. In fact, this sign is used to warn drivers of a hazard and to tell them to switch to the next lane.

Kwik Fit's Roger Griggs said the findings suggest a nationwide campaign is badly needed to ensure motorists fully understand the rules.

"If many drivers are avoiding using the hard shoulder when it's open, then the extra capacity which smart motorways are designed to provide is not being utilised properly and we will end up being in a worse position than with the original road layout," he pointed out.

Back in July, Highways England's Matt Pates told the BBC he believes the hard shoulder is no longer necessary thanks to improvements in vehicles and the advent of smart motorways.