Left arrows on smart motorways

By Alicia Jarvis
Updated on July 28, 2021


What does a left-pointing arrow down on a motorway mean?

Move to the left lane¬†– Even if there appear to be no problems ahead, you must obey these signs. There could be backed-up traffic or another hazard that you aren’t aware of yet.


Driving on a smart motorway

Technology is in place on some portions of motorway to minimise congestion and reduce travel times. These roadways are referred to as “smart motorways.” Active traffic management is another name for this technology (ATM). As traffic load increases, smart motorways use traffic control technology to adjust speed limits.

During busy periods, drivers may also be permitted to utilise the hard shoulder as an extra lane.

There are 3 types of smart motorways.


Controlled motorway

Controlled motorways contain three or more lanes, and changing speed restrictions are displayed on overhead signs.

These speed limits are denoted by a red circle and are legally binding. On controlled motorways, the hard shoulder should only be used in an emergency.


All-lane running

On a smart motorway that has been converted to all-lane operation, the hard shoulder is always used as an extra lane.

In the event of an emergency or breakdown, refuge places with emergency telephones are provided at least every 2500 metres, and drivers receive regular information updates via overhead signage. The signs provide information on the current mandatory variable speed restrictions as well as whether lanes are closed.


Dynamic hard shoulder

Sections of smart motorway with a dynamic hard shoulder employ the hard shoulder to provide additional capacity during peak hours.

The hard shoulder is denoted by a strong white line, and cars are only permitted to use it as a running lane when overhead signs indicate that it is open. If the sign above the hard shoulder has a red X or is blank, enter it only in an emergency.