Smart Motorways, or managed motorways, uses active traffic management (ATM) to ease the flow of traffic. Active traffic management uses systems like variable speed limits and opens hard shoulders to traffic. CCTV closely monitors the flow of traffic and computer programs implement changes that keep congestion to a minimum.
Smart motorways have already been operating in some areas across England with a stretch of the M42 the first to test the scheme. Now ‘smart’ sections can be found on the M1, M4, M5, M6 and M25.
However smart motorways are not without its critics. Some say that having no hard shoulder is dangerous particularly if a vehicle breaks down. Smart motorways are built with ’emergency refuge areas’ distanced usually between 500m to 800m to each other, however on some motorways they could be anywhere up to 2500m apart.
Current assessment of smart motorways has also shown that not all drivers are too good at following the instructions sign posted overhead. For example when lanes have been declared as closed it has not prevented some drivers from using them anyway. This could be particularly dangerous if a lane is closed for a broken down vehicle or for the emergency services to use.