Monthly Archives: November 2016

Driving on smart motorways: What are they and how do you use them?

There has been a takeover: The Internet of Things has arrived. We now live our lives operating with smart phones, smart televisions, smart watches, and even the smart doorbell. Now comes the hour of smart travel and even the smart motorway. But what exactly is a smart motorway, and how do they work?

smart-motorways

A ‘smart’ section of the M25 motorway

Smart motorways are the latest innovation in traffic flow technology – they’re made to help motorists get around as efficiently as possible. Congestion on the motorway and major road network in England costs an estimated £2 billion every year, with 25 per cent of this resulting from incidents (Highways England), so it has become imperative that there needs to be measures to help drivers fight these issues.

These problems, luckily, have not gone unnoticed. Since 2006, Highways England have been working on integrating smart motorways into the existing UK road system as an alternative method helping to relieve traffic problems.

There are four different types of smart motorway that now traverse the English landscape. Highways England – who are responsible for the smart motorway programme in England – construct, maintain and operate them. They are:

  • Controlled motorway: Variable speed limits without hard-shoulder running.
  • Dynamic hard shoulder: Variable speed limits with part-time hard shoulder running.
  • All lane running: Variable speed limits with the hard shoulder converted to a permanent running lane.
  • Through junction running: All lane running through junctions.

(source)

By creating and using these differing types of smart motorway it has become possible to determine the effects that traffic flow experiences when controlled differently, compared to normal, not smart-controlled UK roads.

So, with all the additional technology installed, what benefits do motorists see from smart motorways?

Well, one of the benefits is the moveable lanes. Often, when traffic flow is noticeably heavier than it should be, it is possible for remote lane adjustments to be made – such as opening the hard shoulder – in order to help ease the congestion and get motorists back on track with their travels. With the addition of benefits such as an extra lane for traffic flow, it becomes much easier for drivers to travel along otherwise slow or even standing motorways at busy times.

In regard to accidents, as well as helping to greatly reduce the number of incidents, smart motorways are also good at helping people travel safely even when there may be an obstruction in the road because of the option of move, open and close lanes for drivers to work around the problem.

motorway jam night.jpg

Congestion could be a thing of the past with smart motorways

The advantages of having smart motorways have been analysed since their inception, as it is important to prove that the changes really make a difference to drivers. Since the opening of the M42 as a managed motorway (as it was originally named) in 2006, analysis of its smart data has found that:

  • journey reliability improved by 22 per cent
  • personal injury accidents reduced by more than half
  • where accidents did occur, severity was much lower overall with zero fatalities and fewer seriously injured

(Highways England)

So it is clearly evident that smart motorways are helping to cut congestion and travel times for motorway users. But how safe are they for users?

Highways England have said they are “committed to safety in every aspect of [their] work. All lane running smart motorway design is based on robust analysis by experienced professionals using tested methodologies.” (source) They also say that their analysis “demonstrates that our safety objectives were likely to be achieved with road user safety no worse than before all lane running is implemented,” citing the results of the M25 smart sections as evidence.

Smart motorways also include the extra safety of emergency refuge areas, which are designed to provide a relatively safe area following a breakdown or problem for drivers on smart motorways. Their frequency is such that “if you are driving at 60mph you will reach a place you can stop in an emergency every 75 seconds on average.” (source) Each of these areas has a telephone that can connect you to a control centre in order to pinpoint your position and get you the assistance you require.

If you’re still unsure about smart motorways, here are some quick tips to help you with driving on them.

On a smart motorway:

  • never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”
  • keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries
  • a solid white line indicates the hard shoulder – don’t drive in it unless directed.
  • a broken white line indicates a normal running lane
  • if your vehicle experiences difficulties, eg warning light, exit the smart motorway immediately if possible
  • use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
  • put your hazard lights on if you break down

If you need some more help, this gov.uk page offers additional help and guidance, such as this video:

There are, however, some bodies that have stepped forward to voice concerns about smart motorways and their impact on both motorists and the environment.  An AA survey of more than 20,000 motorists found that “79 per cent think the loss of hard shoulders has made motorways less safe,” (source) and Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), said: “Using the hard shoulder as a running lane may make it more difficult for drivers to find somewhere safe to stop if they break down, as the emergency refuges are only spaced at intervals along the motorway.” (source)

Alongside concerns for motorists, there are also issues being raised regarding the environmental impact of smart motorways. Tony Bosworth, from Friends of the Earth (FoE), disagreed there were environmental benefits: “It’s effectively motorway widening on the cheap. We believe it’s simply going to encourage more drivers and cause an increase in carbon dioxide.” (source)

 

Remember, if you do break down or suffer from car troubles when driving on a smart motorway, a Trust My Garage member is never far away and can provide you with quality, trustworthy help. For a map of your nearest members click here.

It looks like the future of the smart motorway is set for them to become the ubiquitous format for major road construction and control across the UK. Despite this, it seems as though the jury is still out on the pros and cons of smart motorways. Only time will tell.

The Car Repair Plan: Shielding you from unexpected costs

Have you ever wanted to have a little bit of money put aside in a pot, just in case something goes wrong? A ‘rainy day fund’, if you will? Most people now probably have some sort of savings fund in case of an emergency to help them out with unplanned costs and problems.

Well, have you thought about doing the same for your car? As a driver, you need to be able to budget for the costs of regular maintenance and perhaps even a little extra for those unexpected costs.

With one in seven UK motorists putting off essential repairs due to financial issues, it might be time to start thinking about looking out for your money and your motor.

Provided by the Independent Garage Association, The Car Repair Plan is the answer. It allows you to shield yourself from unexpected repair costs by providing a free, easy and flexible way to budget for car servicing and repairs. You can even set up a family fund, so more than one person can put in money, and you can use it on more than one vehicle. With the Car Repair Plan, a little bit of saving goes a long way!

rmicrp-long

Trusty, the Car Repair Plan mascot

So, what does the Car Repair Plan do?

The plan allows you to save as much or as little as you want on a regular basis to ensure that you always have the funds available to pay for the service and repair of your car – and other vehicles in your family.

 

Where can I use it?

You can use your Car Repair Plan fund at any participating Trust My Garage member. You can choose to use all or some of your account balance when settling the bill. The process is simple and straightforward, and there are no extra costs or hidden charges. If you want to find your nearest participating garage, take a look at the handy map on the Trust My Garage website.

crpmap

The Trust My Garage map of participating Car Repair Plan garages 

 

How will it help me?

You can choose to use all or some of your account balance when settling a repair or service bill. The process is simple and straightforward, so you won’t have to worry about paying out more to get yourself back on the road.

 

What about making payments into the account?

You add a set amount into your account every month. You can alter the payment or take a break at any time, or when you feel you have built up enough of a fund. The scheme is entirely flexible.

 

How can I check my fund’s balance?

You can view your balance online at any time. Just log in to the website.  It’s as easy as that to access!

 

 

If you’d like to find out any more information about Car Repair Plan or sign up for the scheme, click this link to head over to the website.

What do you think about the Car Repair Plan? Leave us some thoughts in the comments!