Motorway hard shoulders have always been a place of sanctuary on some of the UK’s busiest roads. They are a safe place to stop in the event of a vehicle breakdown, and ensure that the traffic on the motorway keeps moving.
However, it is becoming a regular occurrence that hard shoulders are being used as regular traffic lanes during peak hours to relieve some of the strain of traffic using the other three lanes. The new ‘smart’ motorways are beginning to appear across England and it is hoped that by opening up the hard shoulder, traffic congestion will reduce.
Survey suggests increased danger on motorways
But what happens if you have a vehicle breakdown? The AA have conducted a survey that resulted in 8 out of 10 people saying that by opening up the hard shoulder it would increase the danger to those that had a breakdown and subsequently nowhere to park up away from the flow of traffic.
The AA has claimed it would like to see a rise in the number of Emergency Refuge Areas (ERAs) being built on smart motorways to allow vehicles in trouble to stop safely. Currently ERAs are found every 2.6km, but it has been suggested that there should be one located every 800m.
What to do if you break down on the motorway
Breaking down on a motorway can be a stressful experience, and that’s when you have a hard shoulder to pull over onto. But what if there is no hard shoulder or layby in site? Firstly, stay in your vehicle with your seatbelts on. Make sure your hazard lights are on to alert other drivers of the situation. Before calling a recovery vehicle ring 999, especially if you have stopped somewhere other than the left hand lane. The police may have to stop traffic completely to allow the recovery vehicle to move your car to a safe spot.
It is also important to be aware of your surroundings. Next time you’re travelling along a motorway take a moment to thing about what you would do if your car broke down. Always know where you are incase you need to call the emergency services and carry items such as a fluorescent jacket, torch and bottles of water incase you have to wait for a recovery vehicle to come and rescue you from the hard shoulder.