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Over half of us AVOID open hard shoulders on smart motorways

Smart motorway hard shoulder

New research has shed some light on motorists’ understanding of how hard shoulders on smart motorways work. 

The headline revelation is that a massive 56 percent of British drivers AVOID driving on the hard shoulder of smart motorways. Yes, even when signs say they’re open. That represents 23.1 million UK drivers.

Why are drivers avoiding smart motorway hard shoulders?

How to drive on a smart motorway

So why are so many of us avoiding hard shoulders even when we’re allowed to use them? Well, perhaps predictably, it’s because we’re not sure if we are. Almost one in three motorists said that they felt uncertain about whether hard shoulders were open. 

One in four were reluctant to use them even when they knew the lane was open, over fears about there being stationary cars in the way. 

There are other safety-related concerns, too. 15 percent said they don’t like driving so close to the verge. Another 15 percent said they were worried about debrit in the hard shoulder lane.

14 percent said they were concerned about the lack of an escape lane, should they need to take evasive action. 

Smart motorways: a lack of understanding

Smart motorways dangerous

In terms of understanding the signage, we’re not in great shape. Less than a third said they were able to correctly identify an open hard shoulder using smart motorway signage. 20 percent of drivers said that they had no idea when a hard shoulder was in use. 

Just 42 percent correctly understood gantry signs direct when you can drive in the hard shoulder on smart motorways. Only 29 percent correctly said that a speed limit sign over a hard shoulder indicated it was in use. Surprisingly, 13 percent said you can never use the hard shoulder.

Worryingly, 15 percent said that a blank sign meant that it was open. The opposite is, in fact, true.

“These findings reflect the concerns and uncertainty that many drivers have when driving on smart motorways,” said Roger Griggs, communications director of Kwik Fit.

Smart motorway hard shoulder

“It’s clear that if many drivers are avoiding using the hard shoulder when it’s open, then the extra capacity which smart motorways are designed to provide is not being utilised properly and we will end up being in a worse position than with the original road layout.

“It is vital that there is a nationwide information campaign to ensure that drivers fully understand when they can and cannot use the hard shoulder if smart motorways are to be accepted by drivers and provide a way to ease congestion – something we need desperately.”