Nov 012018
 

UK motorway lit upDespite smart motorways existing for more than ten years in the UK, research by the Institute of Advanced Motorists showed 67% of drivers felt there has been no publicity surrounding their creation, meaning many don’t fully understand the concept of smart motorways or how they work.

If you’re in the majority, Warranty Direct has put together a guide to explain the changes, benefits and potential new fines smart motorways might bring in the future.

The basics

A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses traffic management methods to increase capacity and reduce congestion in, particularly busy areas.

These methods include using the hard shoulder as a running lane and applying variable speed limits to control the flow of traffic.

Smart motorways are an effective and cost efficient way of increasing space on our roads, cutting jams and speeding up journey times.

In fact, government predictions suggest journey times will be improved by ten per cent along the M1 and 15 per cent on the M3 once work to create Smart motorways along these routes is complete.

There are three types of schemes which are classed as smart motorways:

  • Controlled motorways use at least three lanes, with variable speed limits set accordingly along the stretch of road and a hard shoulder which should only be used in emergencies
  • Dynamic hard shoulder running schemes use variable speed limits and a hard shoulder that can be opened as a running lane at busy times. Illuminated overhead signs tell you when you may drive on the hard shoulder
  • All lane running schemes mean you will notice there is no hard shoulder. Instead, every lane is in use, with variable speed limits again being set as and when required. As a result of this design, motorists should do their utmost to stop at an emergency refuge area if they encounter a problem

Not so fast and furious

Of course, all normal road rules and laws apply to smart motorways, but there are a few points in particular worth highlighting.

The same laws apply for speeding on a smart motorway, but with more cameras and variable speed limits, motorists have a much higher chance of getting caught and fined for speeding.

Given the new speeding sentencing structures, offenders can be charged a maximum of £2,500 on a motorway or up to 175% of their weekly income. Fines are worked out on a sliding scale depending on the severity of the speeding offence. Motorists who break the rules leave themselves wide open to these more severe penalties.

New digital speed cameras are now widely used to enforce variable speed limits too. Though they are clearly signed, these are smaller and less visible than the more familiar ‘yellow box’ cameras. So, make sure you pay attention to road signage when driving and adjust your speed accordingly.

Don’t follow the red X

Earlier this year, Highways England found as many as 20% of vehicles were driving through the red X signs used on smart motorways.

On a smart motorway, the red X indicates a lane is closed, due to there not being the necessity to have it open, an accident or maintenance occurring.

It is an offence to drive in a lane with a red X on the gantry above it. Not only is it extremely dangerous, but there are also plans to introduce fixed penalty fines in the future instead of the manual enforcement currently in place. So it’s best to get into the habit of leaving a closed lane as soon as you can.

If you are still unsure about how to drive on a smart motorway, here are some more quick tips to give you clarity:

  • Keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries
  • A solid white line indicates the hard shoulder, so don’t drive in it unless directed
  • A broken white line indicates a normal running lane
  • If your vehicle experiences difficulties, exit the smart motorway as soon as possible
  • Use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder
  • Never drive in a lane closed by a red “X”
  • Put your hazard lights on if you break down
Oct 162018
 

Warranty Direct used the latest data from GlobalPetrolPrices to compare different global fuel costs and calculate how far you would travel on a series of iconic car journeys around the world on twenty pounds’ worth of petrol.

As announced earlier in July, these are the top five most expensive and cheapest petrol rates around the world:

Bottom 5 least expensive countries Cost per litre ($) Top 5 most expensive countries Cost per litre ($)
Venezuela 0.01 Hong Kong 2.20
Iran 0.29 Norway 2.08
Sudan 0.34 Iceland 1.98
Kuwait 0.35 Netherlands 1.95
Algeria 0.35 Greece 1.94

While not in the top five most expensive countries, it’s still bad news for the UK. Our rates came in the bottom 15% of the study (129th) with petrol costing $1.71 per litre.

As a result, drivers taking on one of the country’s most famous routes – Land’s End to John o’ Groats – using UK fuel rates, wouldn’t even make it a fifth of the journey (16%) on a £20 tank of fuel. The total cost of the journey would cost £122 to complete.

US and UK global petrol rates rankings, compared with the rest of the world:

Global Ranking Country Cost per litre ($)
36 United States 0.85
129 United Kingdom 1.71

Comparatively, US drivers taking the route from Cornwall to Scotland could complete the journey on just £61 worth of fuel, if using the US fuel rate ($0.85 per litre).

The USA performed well in the study, with petrol prices appearing in the top quarter cheapest in the world (36th). US drivers pay less than a quarter of the fuel tax their UK counterparts pay, meaning they benefit from much lower prices.

US drivers could even drive the famous US Route 50 (3,017 miles) on just £205 worth of fuel. To put this into perspective, driving the same route on UK petrol prices would cost more than double (£422).

Hong Kong posts the highest global fuel prices, with a litre of petrol costing $2.20, which is over 200 times as much as it costs in Venezuela (the cheapest country). This means a driver from Hong Kong would need to spend £157 to make the 874-mile journey from Land’s End to John o’ Groats.

European countries dominate the top 5 most expensive petrol prices, with Norway, Iceland the Netherlands and Greece taking spots 2-5 respectively.

Norway posts the second most expensive fuel prices in the world – $2.08 per litre – with high tax levies to blame for Europe’s extreme petrol prices. In fact, £20 would only enable Norwegian drivers to complete 13% of the Land’s End to John o’ Groats route.

Native drivers taking on an equivalent iconic route in Norway – Trondheim to Sandefjord – would also only make it 39% of the distance on £20 of fuel.

Venezuela keeps fuel prices drastically low due to government regulation, meaning prices haven’t changed since 1997.

Such low rates could see you complete the Land’s End to John o’ Groats journey on just 72p and the longest drivable distance on Earth (from Sagres, Portugal to Khasan, Russia) on just £10 worth of fuel, and still have over a quarter of a tank left.

The contrast between the cheapest and most expensive countries is further emphasised when you consider a trip to the moon. On £1,000 worth of fuel, a driver from Hong Kong would only make it 2% of the way to the moon, whereas a Venezuelan driver would make 511% of the journey.

Warranty Direct also completed an analysis of several other well-known routes including; the Karakoram Highway, the longest drivable distance on Earth and Argentina’s Ruta.

See how other countries compared here (link to infographic)

Simon Ackers, CEO at Warranty Direct commented on the findings:

“The results of our latest data analysis are really interesting and the driving routes help to visualise the size of the gap in fuel prices across the world. Although most people wouldn’t drive these journeys in one go, they go to show how much the price gap can add up”.