Green Flag

Green Flag and smart motorways: how to stay safe

Green flag and smart motorways

The debate about smart motorways is currently raging, so I wanted to clarify Green Flag’s policy on them, and provide the latest information on what happens if you do break down on one.

A quick explanation of smart motorways

Smart motorways are split into three categories:

Dynamic hard shoulder motorways have a hard shoulder on the left-hand side; however, it can be opened for traffic to ease congestion.

Controlled motorways will have variable speed limits shown on screens above the lanes themselves.

All lane running motorways don’t have a hard shoulder, as every lane is used for traffic. You’ll find yellow-painted ‘emergency refuge areas’ every 600m to 1.5 miles. Any driver can use these areas if there is an emergency or they break down.

If you ever see a red X on the screens above the lane, that means the lane is closed. There may be a breakdown or people working on the roadside. Do not drive on this lane until told otherwise (you’ll usually see the red X replaced with a speed limit).

What to do if you break down, but can still drive your vehicle

If you know there’s a problem, but you’re still able to drive safely, try and leave the motorway and then contact us.

If this isn’t possible, then either use an emergency refuge area or move to the left-hand side of the motorway.

Use an emergency refuge area:

If you’re unable to leave the motorway, aim for one of the emergency refuge areas. As these areas can be up to 1.5 miles apart from each other, it’s worth noting when you last passed one so you can work out how close your next area is.

Every emergency refuge area has a phone that you can use to contact Highways England, or you can call them using your mobile on 0300 123 5000. This should always be your first step if you’re broken down in one of these areas.

When you’re in this area, make sure you leave room behind and in front of your vehicle to allow emergency vehicle access.

Move to the left-hand side of the motorway:

If an emergency refuge area is not available, but you can still drive, the next best thing is to move to the left-hand side of the motorway. Use a hard shoulder if it’s available, or get your vehicle as close to the left-hand verge, boundary or a slip-road as possible.

If it’s safe to, have everyone leave using the left-hand doors, and if there’s a safety barrier, get behind it. Move away from the vehicle and stay at a safe distance from the motorway.

Once safe, call Highways England on 0300 123 5000.

What to do if you break down on an active lane

What happens here depends on what lane you are in.

If you’re on the left-hand lane (lane one):

If you break down on the left-hand lane (also known as ‘lane one’), we will be able to come to your rescue. However, there are some steps you need to take to stay safe.

Where possible leave the vehicle by the left doors and follow the instructions above.

If this is not possible, and you can’t safely exit the vehicle, then do the following.

First, make sure your seatbelt is left on and that you’ve put on your hazards. Second, contact Highways England on 0300 123 5000. They will be able to close the lane (using the red X mentioned before) to help keep you safe.

We will come to your rescue, with the help of a fend-off vehicle. This vehicle will sit further back on the lane to help shield you from other vehicles. This fend-off vehicle will come at no extra charge to you.

We will never attempt fix a problem on the lane. We will tow your vehicle off the motorway to somewhere safe. This minimises the amount of disruption to other traffic and enables our technician to inspect your vehicle safely.

If you’re on lanes two, three or four:

Breakdowns on these lanes need to be dealt with by Highways England or the police, as all lanes will most likely have to be closed.

If you are unable to move to any of the areas previously mentioned, make sure you remain in your vehicle with your seatbelt and hazard lights on, then call the police immediately on 999.

If you’re unable to call, stay calm. Smart motorways have control centres that use cameras to monitor the motorways. They will see the problem and will work to get you help as soon as possible. However, always call the police immediately if you are able to.

The future of smart motorways

The smart motorway debate is an ongoing one.

At Green Flag, our priority is – and always will be – customer safety. That’s why we’re an active member of SURVIVE (Safer Use of Verges In Vehicular Emergencies). This is an industry body made up mainly of government agencies and breakdown companies.

I personally sit on this, and we regularly discuss all areas of the breakdown process from the industry’s perspective.

We’re currently debating how well Highways England, which manages the motorway network on behalf of the Government, can support us in trying to increase driver awareness about smart motorways.

In the meantime, I’d like to reassure all drivers that we’re doing all we can to help ensure smart motorways are as safe as possible for everyone.

Read more about smart motorways here.

Damon Jowett is Green Flag’s head of service delivery – rescue

Safety information from GOV.UK (c) Crown Copyright https://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/doc/open-government-licence/version/3/

25 years ago, Green Flag was brand new. Here’s what else was going on

25 years ago
Cars have got better but roads have got worse in the last 25 years (Picture iStock/oversnap)

Do you remember what you were doing 25 years ago? What car you were driving, how much you spent on fuel and how congested the roads were?

Even if you don’t, you may recall signing up for cover from a new breakdown company. It was called Green Flag and caused a splash by sponsoring the England football team.

Twenty-five years later and Green Flag is still offering the same great service. Motoring, however, has changed significantly. It might not be quite beyond all recognition but things are certainly very different.

The cost of cars

Continue reading

Most drivers don’t know about 2018 MOT changes, Green Flag finds

MOT changes

The MOT test changes this weekend but you can be forgiven if you didn’t know. New research conducted by Green Flag reveals that six out of 10 drivers (58 per cent) haven’t realised the MOT changes are happening.

More worryingly perhaps, nine out of 10 drivers (89 per cent) are unaware that driving a car with an invalid MOT might result in a £2500 fine. And a quarter (25 per cent) don’t realise that driving a faulty vehicle results in a penalty. Read on to find out more about the changes and how drivers might be able to save themselves money.

What are the MOT changes?

Continue reading

Expert advice: what an engine warning light means and what to do

Engine warning light

This March we saw a significant increase in the number of customers ringing us with their engine warning light on. These faults were up by more than a third (39.3 per cent) compared with February.

Warning lights can be worrying and frustrating in equal measure. They’re a worry because they indicate trouble. And when things go wrong with cars, it usually costs money. They’re frustrating because while the lights reveal a fault, they don’t tell you exactly what the problem is. Here’s what you need to know.

What does an engine warning light signify?

Continue reading

How to report an intermittent fault on your car to a garage

Intermittent fault

Sometimes technicians need to go to extreme lengths to find a fault in a car (Picture iStock/Boschettophotopgraphy

The older cars get the more likely they are to develop faults. And the worst of those is the intermittent fault; a noise or problem that’s there one minute, gone the next. The temptation for many of us is simply to tell the mechanic there’s an occasional rattling noise at the front and let them get on with it.

That’s fine but you wouldn’t go to the doctor, say you’ve got a pain in your leg and expect them to instantly diagnose the correct malady. And unlike most doctors, mechanics charge by the hour, so leaving them to find out what’s wrong will cost you.

But even the least mechanical people can make the technician’s life easier. And by doing so, they may even save themselves some money. Here’s how you should go about reporting an intermittent fault with your car to a garage.

Before you contact the garage

Continue reading

My Mud & Motors: Chris Hughes and the competition to win £1000

Mud & Motors

Driving through mud isn’t rocket science. As you’ll see from my advice on how to cope with mud when you’re in a car, much of it is common sense. And that’s how I came to spend a day sitting at the wheel of an Isuzu D-Max pick-up truck, waiting to rescue competitors at the inaugural Green Flag Mud & Motors.

The event took place at the dauntingly named Devil’s Pit near Luton in Bedfordshire. We had Love Island finalist Chris Hughes plus six competitors. The idea was our six entrants had to do a lap of the four-wheel drive course. During that lap they had to make various choices based around common sense that would ensure they didn’t get stuck. They would score points on the way according to the decisions they made and the winner would get £1000. Here are four things I learned from the day.

Chris Hughes was great fun

Continue reading

Expert advice: how to drive through thick mud without getting stuck

One of the problems contestants for Mud & Motors are going to have is – as the event’s name suggests ‑ driving through mud. Manoeuvring any vehicle other than a tank over a slippery surface is easier said than done.

As a regional operations manager, I have some experience of driving in mud. And I’ll be working with the contestants on Mud & Motors to help them out. Here are my tips for driving in mud.

Rather than just a field with greasy grass, when I say mud I’m thinking more along the lines of muddy tracks here. It’ll have been driven on before, possibly by heavy vehicles such as tractors. Their weight and the tread of their tyres will have broken down the composition of the soil and turned it into mud. There will be puddles, ruts and thick, gloopy mud. Lots of it. Here’s how you get through it.

Your car driving through mud

Continue reading

Expert advice: why cold weather can make your brakes jam on

Brakes

There are certain car faults you associate with cold weather and brake trouble probably isn’t one of them. But in the recent spell of extreme cold weather Green Flag saw a dramatic increase in call outs to do with braking systems.

The number of cars experiencing calliper problems increased by 52 per cent. And drivers having trouble with handbrake cables was up by 77 per cent. Read on to find out how brake faults happen and what you can do to rectify them.

Why do brakes jam on?

Continue reading

Expert advice: if you must drive in snow here’s the kit you should carry

Snow set

A mobile phone could be a life saver

As the Beast from the East bites and many of us wake up to almost unprecedented winter weather, I thought it a good idea to put together a snow set. And along with the equipment drivers should carry in their cars, I’ve also given some advice if they get stuck.

Of course, the best thing to do is to get the fire on, relax and watch the TV until the thaw sets in. But as appealing as that sounds, it isn’t always an option. If you must drive, here are some tips.

Put your snow set together

Continue reading

Expert advice: why cold weather plays havoc with car suspension springs

Suspension failure

You probably don’t imagine cold weather and car suspension failures go hand in hand, but they do. During December, Green Flag witnessed nearly six times as many call outs for front suspension problems as in November. The number from December 2017 was up by nearly a quarter (24 per cent) compared to the same time the year before.

For our customers, this represents a significant problem. There isn’t just the cost of having expensive suspension parts replaced. It’s the inconvenience of the problem occurring in the first place. That’s because broken suspension isn’t usually a roadside fix: cars must be recovered to garages to be mended. Read on to find out more about this phenomenon.

How do you know if your suspension is broken?

Continue reading