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.  

Take a road trip with Suzi and Ortis 

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.

Don't have time for the full video? Our bite-size clips explain the different features of smart motorways and provide breakdown advice.

Know when you're driving on a smart motorway

Around 10 per cent of the motorway network is now made up of smart motorways. So it's important to be able to recognise their features and how they work together.

smart motorway works as a syatem

How do smart motorways work?

There are a number of elements which work together to give you a better, more reliable journey.

Our video takes you through the features and explains how they help you with your journey.

a red X above a closed lane

Do you know what to do when you see a red X?

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.

Road with a gantry traffic signs and signals

What do the traffic signs and signals mean?

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. 

What to do in an emergency

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.

image show that you should get out of the passenger door and across

Emergency Area car being attended by Traffic Officer

What if you break down on a motorway?

Our video explains what you should do if you get into trouble or break down on a motorway.

image showing stop car detection radar technology

What if you break down in a 'live' lane?

Our video explains what to do if you come to a stop on a motorway and it's not safe to leave your vehicle.

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.

Girl checking tyre tread

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