Driving on motorways
Whatever part of National Highways' network you’re driving on, we want you to stay safe and know what to do if anything goes wrong.
Our videos explain the main features of smart motorways, and we provide advice and guidance on safer driving and what to do in an emergency.
In the following video, TV presenters Suzi Perry and Ortis Deley take you on a road trip along a smart motorway, explaining the system and key information that drivers need to know.
On a smart motorway, we sometimes need to close one or more lanes to traffic, for example, if a vehicle has broken down in one.
The red X signals above and alongside the motorway tell you when lanes are closed and you need to move to another lane.
It is illegal to drive in a lane marked with a red X.
The signs and signals above and beside smart motorways give you valuable information about speed limits, which can vary depending on traffic levels, lane closures and other incidents along the route.
Using variable speed limits during busy periods enables us to manage traffic flow and reduce congestion, leading to smoother journeys.
Go left. Leave at the next junction or service area if you can. If that’s not possible, move left onto the hard shoulder or nearest emergency area. Don’t put out a warning triangle or try to repair your vehicle yourself.
If you can, get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle via the passenger door, and get over the safety barrier on to the verge. Keep clear of your vehicle and moving traffic at all times.
If your car stops unexpectedly and it isn’t safe to get out, keep your seatbelt and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.
If you have a hearing, speech or physical impairment that means you can’t use an emergency roadside phone, text us on 0738 028 3600 for roadside assistance.
We also offer British Sign Language users the SignLive service for getting in touch with our customer contact centre. Both are available 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
Take care when you rejoin the motorway
Get back on the road safely from an emergency area. Do not exit an emergency area without speaking to National Highways first. We can close the lane to help you rejoin the motorway safely. We can also set signs and warn approaching traffic that you're about to exit an emergency area.
Get back on the road safely from the hard shoulder. Build up speed, use your indicators and watch for a gap in the traffic to rejoin the carriageway safely. Be aware that other vehicles may be stationary on the hard shoulder or in the layby ahead of you.
Help protect yourself and other drivers
Stay within the speed limit and keep left unless you’re overtaking. This helps to keep you and other road users safe, and to keep traffic flowing as smoothly as possible.
Plan ahead. Check that your vehicle is safe and roadworthy, and that you have enough fuel for your journey. Remember to plan for breaks and don’t drive when you’re tired.
If you or anyone in your vehicle is unable to follow our breakdowns advice for any reason, stay in your vehicle, keep your seatbelts and hazard warning lights on and call 999 immediately.
Keep the following items in the car if you can:
- Warm clothes
- Hi-vis jacket
- A torch
- Breakdown cover details
Make sure you have these items with you before you set off on a long journey:
- Any medication you need
- Charged mobile phone
- Food and water