Smart Motorway Scheme Presses Ahead

As the £1.6bn “smart” motorway scheme presses ahead how can you prepare to stay safe during a breakdown? 

August 2020, sees the introductions of six new “smart motorways” press ahead. The £1.6bn scheme that was announced back in March is now seeing traction but is proving controversial. At the end of 2019 the Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps, admitted “We know people are dying on smart motorways” a hard hitting statement made alongside a confirmation that the implementation of smart motorways was to undergo a safety review that should bring them in line with the successful implementation of the original smart motorway scheme but many are still highly concerned about the safety implications.  

From as early as 2006 the feedback from a worrying proportion of accidents and motorway breakdowns have highlighted that many drivers are unaware of the safest way to proceed if they breakdown on a motorway. Here at JCT600 VLS, we feel the safety of your drivers is paramount and therefore we want to provide everyone with a recap on some of the ways your drivers can stay safe when driving on UK motorways. 

Additional motorways and the building of additional motorway lanes is a costly affair in terms of our environment as well as financially. Yet, as the demands on our infrastructure increased, a solution was required in order to, amongst other things, reduce collisions and allow a more acceptable flow of traffic during busy periods. In light of this, managed motorways were first rolled out in 2006 on the M42 in the form of a Dynamic Hard Shoulder scheme, this eliminated the need for resource heavy road widening by allowing the hard shoulder to be used during busy times as well as the ability to vary speed limits dependent upon accidents and traffic flow. Initial statics showed the Active Traffic Management on the managed motorway to be a success, “Highway Agency statistics showed overall fuel consumption reduced by 4% and vehicle emissions fell by up to 10%”, congestion reduced and personal injury accidents reduced significantly.  

However, since the implementation and subsequent roll out of new smart motorways across the country it has become evident that the key safety features of the initial trial motorways were not replicated, for example; only 6% of the current smart motorways have accurate radar technology that notifies the emergency services in a timely manner and emergency areas on the majority of the following smart motorways were built every 2,500m rather than the advised 800m.  

Before setting out on your journey

  • Ensure that your vehicle is ready for the journey by checking; the tyres, fuel, oil, water and lights. If there are concerns about the safety of your vehicle you should not enter the motorway.  
  • If you have any safety concerns about your vehicle and it is maintained by JCT600 VLS then this will include; routine servicing and all fair wear and tear maintenance of vehicles, MOT, tyres, breakdown and recovery through manufacturer warranty programs, and our breakdown recovery agents where not supported by the manufacturer or out of warranty period 
  • Please call 0844 879 3325 for further information or to book a service 
  • It is advised to travel with spare blankets, water and clothing in your vehicle and imperative that if you take medication that it travels with you.  
  • Ensure you have a copy of all relevant emergency telephone numbers in your vehicle and on your mobile phone  
  • It is worth checking the quick tips on “how to drive on a smart motorway” provided by the government as it is easy to forget some of the rules, especially if you are not used to driving on motorways 

Motorway breakdown – what to do: 

  • If you cannot get your vehicle to a safe place to exit 
    • Put your vehicles hazard warning lights on 
    • Call 999 
    • Keep your seatbelt on 
  • Move out of the line of moving traffic
    • Ideally on to the hard shoulder or emergency area 
    • If neither are available, try to manoeuvre your vehicle on to the left verge 
  • Once you are out of the line of traffic, and it is safe to do so, driver and passengers should exit from the left-hand side of the vehicle 
  • Put your hazard warning lights on 
  • DO NOT attempt to put out a warning triangle 
  • Move a safe distance from the carriageway 
  • Call the relevant breakdown service 
    • Your Breakdown Recovery Service – You should have this number in your vehicle and stored in your phone for emergency purposes 
    • If your breakdown service is part of your JCT600 VLS package, this may include;  24/7 breakdown and recovery service – UK wide coverage – Roadside, Recovery, At Home, Onward Travel, European Cover  – Call referral to Manufacturer provider if available 
    • If your breakdown cover is included in your JCT600 VLS package, and you breakdown, please call our dedicated number 0800 489 569 and provide driver name and registration number  
  • If you do not have a working mobile phone, make your way to the nearest emergency phone 
    • They are in orange boxes placed every mile along the motorway
    • Face the direction of the oncoming traffic flow 
    • Follow the arrows on the hard shoulder posts  
    • Once the call has been placed and you have provided as much information as possible regarding your location and travellers, return to your vehicle location staying a safe distance from the carriageway 

Useful Contact Numbers 

Highways England 0300 123 5000 

JCT600 VLS Drivers Line 0800 489 569 

JCT600 VLS Maintenance 0844 879 3325