Many parts of Highways England’s motorway network use technology to monitor and manage the flow of traffic. The technology is controlled from regional control centres which can activate and change signs and variable speed limits. This helps keep the traffic flowing more smoothly.
This map shows routes of completed smart motorways and smart motorways under construction.
The three types of motorway shown on the map are:
- Dynamic hard shoulder: where the hard shoulder is temporarily opened up to traffic
- All lane running: where the full width of the road is usable with emergency refuge areas alongside
- Controlled motorway: with three or more lanes, a hard shoulder and variable speed limits
On some busier sections of motorways we temporarily open the hard shoulder or have converted it to a permanent extra lane so that more vehicles can travel, avoiding the expense and disruption of widening the road.
These technology-enabled sections of motorways have enhancements such as:
- electronic message signs that display Red X signs and variable speed limits
- sensors to monitor traffic volumes
- CCTV cameras
- emergency areas, with emergency roadside telephones
- Never drive in a lane closed by a Red X.
- Keep to the speed limits shown on the signs.
- A hard shoulder is always identified by a solid white unbroken line – if there’s no speed limit displayed above it or a Red X is displayed, do not use it except in emergency.
- A broken white line indicates a normal running lane.
- If the hard shoulder is being used as an extra lane, use the designated emergency areas for emergencies.
- If your vehicle experiences difficulties, eg warning light, exit the motorway immediately, if you can.
- If you break down, put your hazard lights on.
- Most breakdowns are preventable – keep your car well maintained, check your tyres and make sure you have enough fuel for your journey.
Breaking down on a smart motorway
Knowing what to do in an emergency or a breakdown is key to keeping yourself and others safe.
If your vehicle has a problem on a motorway with no hard shoulder:
- Move into the left hand lane and put your hazard lights on
- Exit at the next junction or services OR
- Follow the orange SOS signs to an emergency area and call for help using the free telephone. This will tell us your location.
If you can’t get off the motorway or to an emergency area:
- Move your vehicle as close as possible to the left-hand verge, boundary or slip road
- If you feel you can get out safely with any occupants, consider exiting your vehicle via the left-hand door, and wait behind the safety barrier if there is one and it is safe to do so. Keep clear of your vehicle and moving traffic at all times
- Call 999 immediately
If your car stops unexpectedly in any lane and it is not safe to get out
- Keep your seatbelts and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately
- We’ll close the lane and send help.
If there is a hard shoulder on a motorway, you can use it to stop in an emergency only. If you can, get behind the safety barrier and away from your vehicle and moving traffic. Use the free SOS phone or call Highways England on 0300 123 5000 for help. Why not save the number in your phone now in case you ever need it?
Do not put out a warning triangle in any circumstances.
All motorists should be able to make their own recovery arrangements in the event of a breakdown. We advise you to carry details of your provider with you.
Remember, most breakdowns are avoidable and simple vehicle checks can help you have a safer journey. Check your tyres, fuel, oil and water. However, if your vehicle appears to have problems or is damaged, always try to exit the motorway.
Our regional control centres use CCTV cameras to monitor and manage our motorways. Once they’re aware of your situation (via CCTV or the police), they can set overhead signs and close the lane to help keep traffic away from you.
The control centre can also send a traffic officer or the police to help you, and assist you to rejoin the motorway when appropriate.
Please note that if you break down or are in an emergency, you must call for help as soon as possible.