Thanks to the smart technology needed to operate the motorways, fining drivers for minor mistakes or indiscretions is easy; the stretch of M1 motorway between Junction 30 – 35A in Yorkshire has seen 62,337 tickets issued since 2017.
Although there is some outdated evidence that smart motorways can help with congestion, the primary factor behind them is of course, financial. A smart motorway is around 60% cheaper than traditional widening, so despite the very real safety concerns over smart motorways, it seems that they’re the preferred choice of the authorities.
It’s thought that around £41m has been raised by the use of smart motorways, purely through fining drivers for speeding and lane-infringement wrongdoings – using a lane when it’s closed.
No one argues that lane discipline is crucial to the safety of all motorists, workers, & breakdowns etc, but there needs to be more done to offer sanctuary to the stranded motorist; breaking down (during off-peak hours) on a smart motorway has been proven to be 216% more dangerous than on a conventional motorway.
The three-lane squeeze
Of course in the age of swingeing budget cuts, authorities must do all they can to save money, many local authorities are now implementing ‘spend to save’ programmes, but it does seem as though factoring in revenue from fines has become the norm so it’s unlikely that there will be a let-up in processing misdemeanours, and as we learnt before, this could be anything from a noisy car, through to distracted driving.
The rise of technology on our roads is a double-edged sword; on the one hand, it does help to protect the public from menacing drivers, or those drivers that see a car as purely a means of getting from A to B, with little thought or minimal input along the way, but the downside is that driving a car is becoming increasingly fraught with concerns over minor indiscretions with motoring laws, including speeding.
We’ve known for many a year that motorists are seen as the easy cash cow for bulking up the coffers, and that situation is only going to get worse, under the guise of ‘safety technology’. But at what point does safety end, and pure money-grabbing begin?
Where will these non-discretionary cameras lead us to? And how much impact will they have on the pastime of ‘motoring’? It could be argued that while they’re adding to road safety, they’re also dumbing down common sense, and driving skills, and of course, they’ll have a detrimental impact on the pleasure of driving – people just driving for the love of driving.
Smart motorways, dumb drivers!
Also known as Not So Smart Motorways. Tragedies waiting to happen!
Stupid ignorant planners who never leave their desks and leave all decisions to their computers Has a computer ever driven a car on a motorway ? Smart accidents just waiting to happen with SMART or stupid motorways
In my opinion smart motorways could lead to more accidents, when the speed limit goes up and down automatically so imagine yourself driving at say 70 then it changes to 50 I’ve noticed people slam on their brakes leaving the people travelling behind not enough breaking distance which has caused a rear shunt or even a full blown accident
I think if this is the way it’s going to be going forward’s I really think cameras shouldn’t automatically fine you for going over speed limits Giving time for the driver to come down in speed gradually rather the 70 50 30 process
I do understand it is a safety feature but it’s not a fair feature as people are now scared to go over the speed limits.
I always try to leave adequate braking distance between me and the car in front but, constantly, other overtaking drivers cut into it and force me to pull back and try to recreate my safe braking distance again. Large lorries are the worst offenders
Were not these lorry drivers, once upon a time, referred to as “Knights of the Road”?
Yeah, ‘Nights’ of the road more like. They drive like they are asleep half of the time following so close to the vehicle in front you couldn’t get a fag paper between them.
That accolade died out years ago. Now its all push and shove with the proliferation of tailgaiting
When lorries are doing the speed limit there is nothing worse then cars rushing by and cutting in ,modern lorries have active cruise control and puts on the brakes when another motorist cuts in so we have to keep up and all we want is others to keep to the limit not 10 mph below but we do on all sides of driving have ones who constantly cut in ,speed and tailgate I agree
It’s got worse since some, SOME EU drivers have set some very bad examples….my honest opinion.
If large lorries are overtaking you then you are travelling too slowly.
Large lorries can do 60 on the motorway. Are you saying that there should be a MINIMUM speed to 60? I thought that MAXIMUM speed limits were in force.
Join the discussion…So really it’s not the smart motorways that are the problem, it’s the standard of driving in the UK. Matrix signs showing reduced speed limits are nothing new and exist on the existing motorway network. I’m a daily motorway driver and see people cutting in and braking sharply every day on ‘normal’ motorways . Like Jennifer I also try to keep a safe braking distance but it’s impossible to account for stupid. I don’t know if Smart motorways will work to ease the congestion we suffer every day but they’re not the problem – drivers whose only thought is to get to where they’re going and damn the consequences are the problem particularly those who think speed limits are optional. Speed limits are imposed for safety and far from drivers now being ‘scared’ to go over them, they should actively stick to them for everyone benefit. If we all just took a little more time, left a little more time and were more aware and conscious of other drivers, it wouldn’t matter how smart the motorways were!
I try to avoid motorways as much as possible but at times it can’t be helped and 2 offender types for me 1 cuts from the right hand lane, through the middle lane to the left hand lane often to the horns of other motorists and 2 trying to keep a safe distance, cars slowing as coming up to a junction and some p***k will just stick their indicator on and force their way in braking at the same time forcing you to brake hard even though you might only be doing 50 but they have usually gone from 80 or 90 right down to 40 mph. This is what happens when you leave the recommended braking distance.
Wholeheartedly agree. Smart lane or no, the stupidity of some motorway drivers beggars belief.
Instructions on smart lanes need to be prominent and drivers need to make themselves aware.
The reason the following drivers do this is because they are usually tailgating. I was travelling on the M62 recently and the car behind me was so close, he could on got into my boot. To many drivers seem to think it’s perfectly acceptable to be within 2 cars length at any speed
Remember the old saying, only FOOLS break the two second rule.
Easy money. They add nothing to the the commute as it’s the junctions that are the bottlenecks, not the road in between.
And only an idiot would drive in lane 1 of such a road – given that it’s the lane with the broken down car in it!
Don’t forget the ‘merge in turn’ recommendation. Most motorists don’t understand the concept, but it does help reduce bottlenecks on multi laned highways. Someone waves you in, raise a friendly hand as a thank you and both drivers feel good. Job done.
Roadworks are better managed when the matrix signs are not used and count down markers are put up,800 600.400 etc then everyone merged in no problem .i see so many times matrix signs on 3 miles before, merge arrows then red x everyone who obeys these signs are pushed back in the queues while others take advantage,matrix should only be used in emergencies to close down a lane for accidents or stranded motorists
My view I know
The M60 in Cheshire between Jct 6 (Sale) and Jct 20 (Prestwich) has been turned into a Smart motorway, after 4 years of delays, reduced speed limits and lots of income from fines set off by the average speed cameras even in the middle of the night when no work was being done. This was to tackle the constant clockwise traffic chaos at its junction with the M62 from Liverpool. After all that time and money, the traffic still backs up and comes almost to a halt in the prolonged morning and evening “rush “hours . The matrix signs on a journey can jump from 50 mph, to 40, then unlimited, then back to 40 in the space of a mile! A total waste of money.
On the anticlockwise side, the matrix signs do assist the traffic flow from the M61 junction, only for it to come frequently to a grinding halt as it hits the non smart existing motorway at Junction 6 where it backs up from the Airport slip and Stockport!
Unlimited? I hope you’re not referring to the national speed limit sign.
I don’t think motoring can justifiably be described as a ‘pastime’ any more.
Couldn’t agree more the motorist is picking up the bill for all government cuts. The fools don’t realise that in the case of car park charges they are killing the high street off as we would rather go to free parking out of town centre,s
I have always said that dumb… I mean “smart” motorways were just a con to make more money. Drivers got used to speed cameras, even average speed cameras (although I am still amazed of the number of cars which flies past me and then brakes before camera at average speed.. as if it helps?!)…. SO the goverment found new more confusing scheme which could catch-out drivers over-wise immune to fines. There is no reason why government should need to look for savings when making road improvements – motorists raises £37bn from duties and VED alone and government only spends like £4bn on road maintenance. Clearly there is plenty money which could be justified for road improvements.
Lanes are less of an issue, I double and tipple check before using hard shoulder. Still it would be correct to say I am “afraid” of using it unless totally 100% sure, so I would not be surprised that 56% of drivers just ignores it all together.. heck 50% of the drivers just cruises in outside lane and never moves over – what is the hope of them using extra lane correctly whilst they always drive on opposite side of the road?!
Much bigger issue is however temporary restrictions, like closed lanes and different speed limits. It is fact that vast majority of the fines on smart motorways comes from offences which would not be an offence on normal motorway… say driving at 50 or 60 MPH, or using temporary closed lane. My point is – government could create situation for penalty at the touch of the button, who is there to check if they are not abusing it?!
How many times I have spend going at 40MPH in 2 lanes on 4 lane motorway at night, without any roadworks or any car in miles?! was there really a reason for lanes to be closed and speed to be reduced? How many times I have seen limits on gantries to go like 60, 60, 60, 60, 60, 50!, 60, 60?! clearly these are designed to catch you out and generate income.
In my opinion fines from temporary “smart” restrictions should not be equal fines for proper restrictions. They should not carry points on the licence and the fine should rather be like charge from council, so not £100, but rather £40 going into £80 if not paid. I think it will remain to be an issue as long as going @65MPH on 50 “smart” limit is going to be equal to going at @85MPH in 70 national limit. Currently, they are literally money traps, but very serious consequences – one could loose licence or be priced out of the insurance due to the points on licence, or literally fired from work due to the licence not being clean. Far too much impact on people life just because goverment put some moron behind the keyboard and wants to make extra revenue.
It makes for clump driving, vehicles all clumped together along the motorway of course this is more dangerous
I have written to the Highways Agency and did received a reply. They rejected all my criticisms. I understand about vacating lanes with a Red X. However, with the speed of other vehicles and the bumper to bonnet driving and the speed, it is sometimes impossible to move into the correct lane.
Having also seen police cars and ambulances jinking in and out of lanes to get to a collision, we really meed to get back to hard shoulders. I feel it is always about making easy money and not really tackling the problems.
The red ‘X’ argument is a load of b******s. Several times now I’ve seen stranded cars in a lane (that would once have been the hard shoulder) that is still open. That must be a terrifying experience for the occupants. Whatever this monitoring process is for closing lanes in emergencies doesn’t work.
I’ll never use smart motorways, I don’t think there’s anything smart about them and dont think there’s anything smart about drivers that use these killer roads!
I’ll take the long way around and I advise everyone else to do the same! At least then you won’t get killed if you break down.
If people refuse to use them and cause traffic chaos going around them the authorities will have to withdraw them and provide a normal safer motorway! How many more people have got to die on them before action is taken.
The real reason these smart killer roads exist is to raise money from the camera system on them.
On many of these stupid managed motorways (I refuse to call them “smart”) there are matrix signs imploring you to use the hard shoulder, so you move into it.. And then two minutes later there’s another sign telling you that the hard shoulder is for “junction x only”. So you have to fight your way out of it again. The whole thing is more dangerous by design.
Similarly there’s the mind-numbing effect of driving at 50mph for mile after mile while no work is actually being done to create these monstrosities. You can’t overtake, so you spend long periods on reduced width lanes literally inches from a trucks wheels, hoping that the over-worked driver isn’t going to fall asleep at the wheel before you do!
I think smart motorways are one of dumbest and dangerous ideas ever thought up. On several occasions this year ,at very busy holiday times , I have been caught in accident traffic . All three lanes have been nose to tail. If those had been smart motorways how on earth would the emergency services fought their way through.
Long stretches of the M6 at 50 mph which means 40 mph and even 30 mph in some stretches when you are actually driving. I therefore find it easier to get off and drive the A roads and even B roads in some instances. This also helps avoid long queues at Sandbach and eliminate fines and avoid accidents which are more prevalent on smart motorways. The time between motorway and A roads is becoming increasingly smaller for some stretches though admittedly you need to know where you are going.
By definition, a so-called ‘smart motorway’ relies primarily on the drivers being smart, which in my considerable experience, is often far from the case! In these days of increased reliance on ‘health & safety’ regulations in almost every other aspect of our lives, it is outrageous that motorists’ lives can be put at stake simply to save the highways budget!
I’ve found they the hard shoulder lane disappears at junctions, as it becomes a left turn only lane, forcing you back into the adjacent lane. Once you’ve done this a couple of times you do not return.
The M1 near me was turned into a smart motorway and the congestion has reduced considerably.
You don’t want to break down on a smart motorway with no safe hard shoulder to get in to you will have a lorry hit you in the back at 60 mph . Not smart at all stupid idea
People who break down on the M25 are quite safe on the hard shoulder due to the smart motorway set up…. they generally reduce the speed limit to 40mph, and close the 2 nearside lanes of the carriageway for 3 miles before the breakdown!!
It never fails to amaze me the number of drivers who don’t understand the basics of driving on a motorway in the first place. Keep in the left lane unless overtaking. All too often, people join the motorway and move straight to the middle lane, sit there at 50mph until just before the exit they want, and then leave the motorway. On the M25 near me, I can drive at the speed limit in the left lane with virtually no one in front or behind me for miles, while the other lanes are moving more slowly because of the amount of traffic in them. What is needed more than “smart motorways” is education of drivers…. but unfortunately, this won’t happen because the government won’t make money off the back of it
I feel that a smart motorway is another way of scamming the people. There are still accidents and long tailbacks.
Smart motorways are dangerous due to refuge area being too small and too far apart.The whole concept is a cheap way of making the roadway larger with more tight lanes .To rely on the knowledge that tec is at times unreliable the whole system is dangerous and should be scrapped. Ministers should think agiain about this system.
The temporary closure of what was once the hard shoulder on the M62, for instance when someone has broken down outside a refuge area, always causes bad congestion due to the disruption of traffic flow as vehicles move out of the running hard shoulder. For the small improvement in traffic flow over the old arrangement at the best of times, we get traffic at a standstill whenever there has been a breakdown.
Any chance we could have an article written by someone who isn’t so rabidly and obviously anti Tory? It turns what could be a useful piece of journalism into a childish rant.
Smart motorways are only smart at robbing us. Please convince me they are effective by fining the many annoying idiots that just stay glued to the 2nd and 3rd lanes. What is wrong with these people and do theu have no common sense? If I was a cop I would nick every single driver hogging lanes like this. Gets my back up. I just go up the inside undertaking them because it really irritates me. I thought it was illegal to hog outsode lanes.
It’s also illegal to undertake.
Slow driving and lane hogging is as equally dangerous, if not worse, than speeding. Nervous drivers dropping below 50mph to 40mph, with a multiplicity of lorries heading to and from the Channel Ports on the M20 forces many vehicles to accelerate beyond 50mph and then back down again. Being stuck next to lane hopping lorries, particularly when they are slowly going uphill, is a very scary experience, whilst hoping one doesn’t get side swiped. This is why it is best to accelerate past them and drop back down to 50mph. This continual accelerating and decelerating can significantly increase one’s average speed on a Smart Motorway to above 50mph. What a nightmare world we are heading into. Ps I‘ve been driving safely for more than 50-years. So far, no penalty points or fines but I fear that will not last for much longer.
Ps Meant to mention about the recent case of a vehicle breaking down and pulling onto the inner Smart Motorway lane. They didn’t stand a chance. All got wiped out including all in the vehicle that hit them, before any of them got a chance to get out of the vehicle. Check it out yourselves.
I recently experienced breaking down in a friend’s car on the A12 near Chelmsford and stuck in a small lay-by for two hours, very adjacent to the two-lane carriageway. That was a nerve-wracking experience. It would have been a nightmare on a Smart Motorway.
I would be terrified of breaking down on a smart motorway, in the dark, in a blizzard, leaving the car for my own safety, running up the bank, and watching as a truck piles into it from behind. Nor would I drive on the hard shoulder in case there was a broken down vehicle parked on it. Hard shoulders were never designed for that.
I hate the hard shoulder. Too many people hit from behind by inattentive drivers. I once drove from the M1 to Hartshead Moor on three tyres because of a puncture and changed it in the services. Destroyed the tyre but me and my family lived. Marginally safer on a smart motorway.
The government could avoid all deaths and near misses on smart motorways by simply walling of all sections of smart motorway so nobody can drive on the and put up a big sign saying road closed due to danger of death through incompetent workmen removing hard shoulder
If smart motorways can’t be closed off due off then we should all avoid them like the plague. It anyone really must drive on one, they should just be used like a conventional motorway where you stay out off lane 1 to avoid fines and collisions with broken down vehiclesthe law said this themselves, so just stick to the old law and ignore the updated one on the assumption whoever passed it was probably off his head on magic mushrooms or lsd when he or she approved the law