Drivers concerned about smart motorway safety

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Two thirds of motorists say they are concerned about safety on smart motorways.

In a survey of more than 2,500 people by breakdown provider GEM Motoring Assist, the main concern was the prospect of breaking down and having no access to a hard shoulder, cited by 51%.

"If your car develops a problem in a stretch of smart motorway, GEM's advice is to try to get to the next junction or service area," said GEM road safety officer Neil Worth. "If that's not possible, then pull in to the next emergency area. These are easily identified by blue signs with orange SOS symbols next to them."

Emergency refuge areas are designed to offer a 'safe haven' for stranded vehicles when the hard shoulder has been turned into an extra running lane. The distance between them varies, but they can be up to 1.5 miles apart.

If you can't get to an emergency refuge area but the vehicle can be driven, Highways England advises moving it as close to the verge or other nearside boundary as possible. Switch on your hazard lights, then leave the car on the passenger side and wait behind the safety barrier.

If it is not possible to get out of the car safely, or there is no other place of relative safety to wait, then you should stay in the vehicle with your seat belt on and call 999 if you have access to a mobile phone.

Once the regional traffic control centre is aware of your situation, via the police or CCTV, they can use the smart motorway technology to change overhead signs and close the lane to help keep traffic away from you. They will also send a traffic officer or the police to help you.

More generally, these are the three key points to remember when driving on a smart motorway:

1. Never drive in a lane closed by a red X

2. Keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries

3. Don't drive on the hard shoulder unless specifically directed

Have you ever broken down on a smart motorway?

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