There are times when parts of the motorway may be controlled or subject to roadworks, with variable speed limits and restrictions on when the hard shoulder can be used. The Highways Agency now refers to these stretches as 'Smart' motorways, and drivers need to be more alert in paying attention to the rules and their surroundings.
On controlled motorways, such as west-bound sections of the M25, the speed limit will be variable. Don't assume that sticking to the national motorway speed limit is always correct. The hard shoulder may not always be open, and will typically be for genuine emergencies only.
Other sections could allow for 'hard shoulder running', which brings the hard shoulder into use as a full lane during periods of very busy traffic. Overhead signs indicate when this is open: you can find this system on portions of the M4, M5 and M42.
Yet another type of motorway you may find yourself on is the 'all lanes running' style, where speed limits are still variable. There is no hard shoulder at all – it acts as a lane – but emergency refuge areas are provided every 2.5km (approximately 1.6 miles). Several sections of the M25 run in this way.
Always monitor the changing signage above your lane – if an X appears, the section of the lane ahead of you has been closed and you will need to move. Continuing in this lane leaves you liable to prosecution and points on your licence.
In cases where there is a serious issue with your car and you have no choice but to stop within a lane, put your hazard lights on immediately. Do not exit the car if you don't feel it safe to do so. Keep your seatbelt on and call 999 for assistance.
For more advice on all driving situations, please get in touch with Lookers. The motoring experts at any of our car dealerships throughout the UK will be able to provide even more specialist information.