SERP seeks to improve smart motorway awareness

When you’re driving along a motorway and you see a sign marked with a red X, it means stay out of that lane because there’s a hazard up ahead.

That’s the message from the Safer Essex Roads Partnership (SERP), who is encouraging drivers to familiar themselves with the principles of smart motorways.

First introduced in 2006, smart motorways use variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle stop-start congestion.

The hard shoulder is turned into an ‘active lane’, with gantry signs displaying a red X indicating if a lane is closed – usually as a result of a vehicle breakdown or in the event of a collision.

Evidence shows in most ways, smart motorways are as safe as, or safer than, the conventional ones.

Despite this, it is important to know how a smart motorway differentiates from a conventional motorway.

  • Click here to read the full advice from Highways England on how to drive on a smart motorway.

Don’t ignore the Red X
A red X means the lane ahead is closed to traffic. There may be an incident or people working ahead, and highways staff may need to keep the lane clear for maintenance or emergency services. It could be a driver needs the protection of a red X sign.

Whenever you see a red X on a gantry sign above your lane, or on a large sign above the nearside (left hand) of the carriageway, you must move safely out of that lane. Arrows prior to the red X sign will indicate the next available lane for you to continue your journey.

Remember, it’s illegal to drive in a lane closed by a red X sign. If you’re caught, you could receive a fixed penalty of up to £100 and three points, and in some cases more severe penalties or a court appearance.

Variable speed limits
If you see a variable speed limit sign on a motorway, it means you shouldn’t exceed the speed limit displayed.

Variable speed limits are there to keep you safe and keep the traffic moving. If you exceed the speed limit, then you may be fined.

Breaking down
Knowing what to do in an emergency or a breakdown is the key to keeping yourself and others safe.

Most breakdowns are avoidable and simple vehicles 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.

If that’s not possible, you should follow these steps:

  • Use an emergency area if you can reach one safely. These are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol. If you can’t get to the emergency telephone but have a mobile phone with you, call our customer contact centre on 0300 123 5000.
  • If you can’t get to the hard shoulder or an emergency area but your vehicle can be driven, move it as close as possible to the nearside (left hand) verge or other nearside boundary or slip road.
  • If you feel you can exit safely with any occupants, consider exiting your vehicle via the nearside (left hand) door, and wait behind the safety barrier if there is one and it’s safe to do so. Keep clear of your vehicle and moving traffic at all times. For example, If your vehicle gets hit, you’re out of the way.
  • Switch on your hazard warning lights and any other lights such as rear fog lights or side lights, to increase your visibility especially if it’s dark or foggy. Do not put out a warning triangle.
  • Contact your breakdown recovery service. All motorists should be able to make their own recovery arrangements in the event of a breakdown.

If it’s not possible to exit your vehicle safely, there’s no safe place to wait, or you feel your life is in danger, put your hazard warning lights on and stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on. If you have a mobile phone, dial ‘999’ immediately.


24 March 2020

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