Smart motorways: most drivers don’t know the rules

Love ’em or hate ’em, smart motorways are here to stay. But, there’s a problem.

We’ve done some research with road safety charity Brake, and less than half of drivers actually understand smart motorway rules.

The facts and figures

We surveyed 2,000 UK drivers* to see just how smart people are when it comes to smart motorways. Here’s what we found out.

48% know what a smart motorway is and know the rules for driving on one.

27% know what a smart motorway is, but don’t know the rules for driving on one.

25% don’t know what a smart motorway is, and therefore, don’t know the rules.

This means that more than half of drivers don’t know the rules when they’re on a smart motorway. And that’s not good news.

Improving public understanding

Back in March, the Government released its stocktake and action plan, which earmarked an additional £5m investment to improve public understanding of smart motorways, and what to do if there’s an emergency when you’re on one.

As our very own Head of Service Delivery, Damon Jowett, explains, raising awareness is key to keep roads safe.

“While the smart motorways system allows for drivers to get to their destination more easily, understanding of the rules is paramount to ensure road safety.

Our latest report has highlighted concerning gaps in driver awareness, and here at Green Flag, we want to help increase this awareness for motorway driving to ensure these roads are as safe as possible.”

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns at road safety charity Brake, echoes this point.

“We welcome the measures the Government has outlined to improve smart motorway safety and urge them to follow this evidence-led approach for all UK roads. With more than 75 deaths and serious injuries on our roads, every day, improving road safety must be a priority for this Government.”

To stay safe, it’s vital every driver knows the rules. So, if you’re unsure, do the smart thing, and check our guide on what to do in an emergency on a smart motorway.

You can read the Green Flag and Brake report in full here.

* Survey of 2,010 drivers undertaken by independent market research company, SurveyGoo, on behalf of Brake and Direct Line. Survey question: Do you know what a smart motorway is and, if so, do you know the rules for driving on one?

8 comments on “Smart motorways: most drivers don’t know the rules

  1. Peter Murray 10/11/2020 10:40 AM

    Hardshoulder equals: 1, less deaths and injuries. 2 less families ripped apart. 3 constant traffic flow. 4 cars fixed on spot if possible.
    Smartmoterway equals : 1 more deaths and more injuries. 2 families ripped apart. 3 flow of traffic broken. 4 cars towed away to garage or destination but not fixed on spot.

    The moterway is the safest mode of transportation because everyone is driving in the same direction and you don’t turn across each other as on public roads. The only danger elimiments are if you or other drivers drive inconsiderately. But with a smart moterway be prepared to die if your car is unable to reach a refuge area, FACT.

    • Gary Hewitt 27/11/2020 9:30 PM

      Spot on, Peter. The campaign group Smart Motorways Kill would really appreciate your support in their fight to get these terrible roads altered to include a continuous hard shoulder, a move which would give motorists back their lifeline.

    • Michael Westrup 28/11/2020 12:16 PM

      Completely agree. If I have the misfortune to use a “smart ” motorway I will be breaking the law as I will stay in lane two. If a car breaks down and has to stop in lane one the broken down car can be hidden by a vehicle in front of you and at 70mph you would need the reaction time of an F1 driver to swerve into lane two even if you could as there may be another vehicle blocking your manoeuvre.

  2. P Hopcroft 10/11/2020 11:30 AM

    So agree with Peter Murray

  3. Eric Hayman 10/11/2020 11:46 AM

    Anyone who authorised the removal of the hard shoulder and replacing it with a running lane should already have been charged with manslaughter. It is as simple as that. Very similar to the removal of trap points on the railway network where two running lines converge – just to save a fractional maintenance cost . As at the site of the Ladbroke Grove disaster – 31 killed – where another set of points should have been automatically set to a less potentially dangerous position. Either would have averted the fatal head-on collision of two trains. As for this childish obsession of the (mis)use of the word ‘smart’………another faddish pretence of the 21st century

  4. Gary Hewitt 27/11/2020 9:23 PM

    I look forward to the day those responsible for Smart Motorways are brought to justice, and pay a heavy price for the theft of our hard shoulder – our life line. Sadly, no punishment will ever compare to the misery inflicted upon the families of Smart Motorway victims, but perhaps a steep enough penalty will deter others in authority from ever putting cost saving before safety again. I hope Green Flag will help in the fight against these killer highways, and help bring about the restoration of continuous hard shoulders as quickly as possible. British motorists deserve so much better.

  5. John carr 26/01/2021 9:09 PM

    I understand that a police commissioner has written to the government calling for “Smart Motorways to be abolished following the recent deaths of two more motorists was declared accidental following a vehicle breakdown.
    Why does it take someone in a high position to complain before anybody takes notice.
    If motorists were perhaps all celebrities then perhaps these ridiculous concepts could be prevented from being implemented in the first place.
    Safety issues should take preference over the inability to provide proper finance to solve
    problems thereby preventing these half baked ideas becoming implemented.

  6. Michael 27/01/2021 8:22 AM

    If I have the misfortune to be on a ” smart” motorway I will not use lane one. I would rather risk a fine for lane hogging than risk killing someone or myself. Absolutely stupid idea just to save money.

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