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Smart motorway signals

Smart motorways have been operating for over a year now. Previously called ‘managed motorways’ they’re usually all-lane running (using the hard shoulder as a fourth lane) with overhead gantry signs and emergency refuge areas. If you find yourself on a Smart motorway, the Institute of Advanced Motorists offers useful tips on the different signals:

  • A red cross without flashing beacons: The hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency or breakdown
  • A speed limit inside a red circle: It is absolutely mandatory and may have cameras enforcing it
  • A blank signal: Usual motorway rules apply
  • A white arrow with flashing beacons: This applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to
  • A red cross with flashing beacons: You should not continue to use the lane
  • A national speed limit sign is shown: The national speed limit, 70 mph maximum, applies to all lanes apart from the hard shoulder

Pay attention to the overhead gantries as they provide information on traffic conditions and lane access. The signals are:

  • Controlled motorway – these have three or more lanes with variable speed limits. Hard shoulder use is for emergency use only
  • Hard shoulder running – the hard shoulder will be opened at busy times and the speed limit reduced. Don’t use the hard shoulder unless overhead signs show you can do so
  • All-lane running – there is no hard shoulder on these sections of the motorway. Obey the variable speed limits and do not stop on the motorway. In an emergency, use an emergency refuge area, motorway service area or exit at the next junction