If you’ve ever driven on the motorway, then you’ll know that the hard shoulder is a fundamental part of the road. However, you may not be familiar with what it is exactly or when it should be used.
In this article, we answer some of the most common questions when it comes to using this part of the road.
What is a Hard Shoulder?
A hard shoulder in the UK and Northern Ireland is a section of the motorway that runs along the left-hand lane. Its use is intended for breakdowns or emergency stops. It is marked by a solid white line with the ‘shoulder’ referring to the piece of land that sits inside the white line. The standard width of a hard shoulder is 3.3 metres.
There can be hard or soft shoulders, but motorways only have hard shoulders. The difference between the two is the type of land that’s located on the shoulder.
A soft shoulder is usually made up of earth or grass while a hard shoulder is made up of hard, durable material such as tarmac.
When Can You Use the Hard Shoulder on a Motorway?
It should only be used when necessary and shouldn’t be used under normal driving circumstances. Although some drivers use the lane when letting others overtake or if a pit stop is required, this is not permitted.
Continuous driving on the hard shoulder is illegal and you could face penalty points
or a fine.
The only exceptions to this rule include breakdown, emergency, and when requested to use the hard shoulder by police or construction workers.
You’re allowed to pull into the lane if you’re waiting for breakdown assistance
but remember to use your indicator and put on your hazard lights.
You may also be permitted to use the lane in the event of a collision with permission from the police. Likewise, road works may require you to briefly use the hard shoulder under the direction of road signs or road workers.
Smart Motorways and Hard Shoulders
If you’ve ever taken a trip across the pond to England, you may have noticed advanced motorway networks called ‘Smart Motorways’. This type of motorway uses technology in certain sections to manage traffic and ease congestion.
Strategies to help increase capacity and manage the flow of traffic include the use of variable speed limits and the hard shoulder as a running lane.
The three types of smart motorways include ‘all lane running’ schemes, ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ schemes and ‘controlled motorway’ schemes.
How should you re-join the motorway from the hard shoulder?
When merging back onto the motorway, you should first build up your speed to match the speed of traffic already on the motorway. When safe to do so, check your mirrors, indicate and join the traffic flow when there is a suitable gap.
Can you walk on the hard shoulder?
It may be tempting to walk along the hard shoulder to seek assistance if your vehicle breaks down, but you should only do so when absolutely necessary. If you have a breakdown, all passengers should exit the car as quickly as possible using the left-hand door and move far away from the road with moving traffic.
If you don’t have access to a mobile phone to call for assistance, then you’ll need to walk to find an SOS phone. In this instance, it is legal to walk on the hard shoulder but be cautious when doing so.
What does a hard shoulder look like?
The hard shoulder can be identified by a continuous white line to the left of the road. On motorways, the inside is made up of tarmac or another hard material while on minor roads, it may be earth or grass.
What happens if you drive on the hard shoulder?
If you drive on this section of the road not only are you at risk of a fine or points on your license but you could also face danger. Stopping in this lane can put you and other road users at risk of an accident. Driving or stopping should only be used as a last resort to prevent death or serious injury.
If you’d like more information on hard shoulder driving or want to enquire about car insurance before your next trip, don’t hesitate to contact Stroll Insurance.