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Introduction of smart motorway technology to M1, junctions 16-19

Drivers are being reminded of the importance of obeying variable speed limit signs on the M1 in Northamptonshire now smart motorway technology is in operation.

The Highways England project between Northampton (junction 16) and Catthorpe (junction 19) uses sensors to automatically monitor vehicle numbers and adjust the speed limit via overhead signs, with the aim of tackling congestion, reducing stop-start traffic flow and improving journey times.

Compliance with the display signs is monitored by roadside cameras. Fixed penalty notices and prosecutions for offences committed between junctions 16 and 19 are processed by Northamptonshire Police as the home force.

Matt O’Connell, of the Safer Roads Team, said: “Smart motorway technology is designed to make journeys safer, smoother and quicker. Achieving these benefits relies on every driver obeying the active warning and mandatory speed limit signs whenever they are displayed.

“It’s also important for people to know than even when no speed is displayed, meaning the national 70mph limit is in place, the roadside cameras remain in operation to enforce that limit.”

All monies generated from fines issued on the Northamptonshire stretch of the M1 motorway go to central government.

During an initial three-week test period in November, 2,467 drivers detected by the smart motorway technology received advice letters from Highways England and Northamptonshire Police advising them of the changes and explaining the benefits of smart motorways.

The operational roll-out of the roadside cameras began in December, with the final ones due to be commissioned at the end of this month, February.

Since the roll-out began, 735 offences have been processed for prosecution. Three of these involved speeds in excess of 115mph, and a further four involved speeds in excess of 120mph. The top speed detected was 127mph.

Read more about the M1 smart motorway in Northamptonshire.

How to drive on a smart motorway

Smart motorways increase the number of vehicles which can use the road, without the need to widen it, by either temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to traffic.

On the Northamptonshire stretch of the M1, between junctions 16 and 19, the hard shoulder has become a fourth driving lane.

On a smart motorway, traffic flow is constantly monitored by sensors which automatically change speed limits to help keep traffic flowing freely.

The regional traffic control centre monitors what is happening on the road and responds to incidents. It can set lane control and speed limits and deploy resources to manage incidents.

Lanes can be closed, indicated by a red X on the overhead signs, for a number of reasons – there could be debris in the road, or a person or animal on the road. There may be an accident or breakdown ahead, or the lane may be needed by the emergency services.

Tips for smart motorway driving:

  • Never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”. If you see a red X closing a lane, move out of that lane promptly. If you don’t, you may receive a fine
  • Keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries. A speed limit displayed inside a red circle is legally enforceable
  • 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, e.g. 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

For more information on driving on smart motorways, including what to do if your vehicle breaks down, visit: www.gov.uk/guidance/how-to-drive-on-a-smart-motorway

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