Episode 1: Weight of Traffic
Watch this episode on BBC iPlayer
Broadcast: BBC 2, 9pm, Tuesday 9 September
The first episode, Weight of Traffic, looks at congestion, road improvements and investments, and environmental work. This includes repairs and improvement work at Spaghetti Junction and at junction 10 to 10a of the M6. The hour-long programme, on BBC 2 at 9pm on Tuesday 9 September, also follows a crew of litter pickers who find some surprising items at the roadside; overnight re-surfacing works; and traffic officers attending several incidents, including tyre blow-outs and breakdowns.
Issues raised in episode 1: Weight of Traffic
This episode features a driver who is unsure what to do after suffering a tyre blow-out on the M6. In most cases, drivers should pull over to the hard shoulder as soon as possible, and exit their vehicle. This guidance is covered in the Highway Code.
In this case, the driver was unsure how to react, as her car was on a section of road with roadworks, and there was no hard shoulder. In all cases, drivers should try to keep moving to the nearest safe place to stop.
The roadworks scheme was to create a smart motorway - which itself has no hard shoulder, as it utilises it as an extra lane to improve traffic flow at peak periods.
You can learn more about smart motorways, including guidance on how to use them, on our smart motorways pages.
Smart motorways turn the hard shoulder into a live lane. This helps cut congestion and keep traffic flowing.
As part of our publicity for smart motorways, we have taken part in the ‘Get smart, know your motorway’ campaign, which includes YouTube videos explaining how smart motorways work.
This advice includes information about what to do if your vehicle breaks down on a smart motorway:
If you need to stop in an emergency on a smart motorway, use an emergency refuge area, motorway service area or leave at the next junction. If that’s not possible, try to get your vehicle off the carriageway if it is safe to do so.
Use the hard shoulder if it’s not open to traffic, or move onto the verge. Put your hazard warning lights on.
Exit the vehicle by the left-hand door if it’s safe to do so and wait behind the barrier if possible.
If you have no choice but to stop in a live lane, put your hazard warning lights on to help other drivers see you, and help Highways Agency control room staff to spot you on CCTV. If you are in the left hand lane, and it’s safe to do so, exit the vehicle via the left hand door. Wait behind the barrier if possible.
If you cannot exit the vehicle, do not feel it is safe to do so, or there is no other place of relative safety, remain in the vehicle. Keep your seat belt on and dial 999. As soon as the Highways Agency is alerted, our regional control centre will use the signs and signals to close lanes in order to protect your vehicle until help arrives. We may also close lanes to allow access for emergency vehicles.
If a road user is on a section of smart motorway, there is extensive CCTV so traffic officers can zoom in on any broken-down vehicle once alerted to them (either by spotting them or getting a call about the breakdown). They can set overhead signs to close the lane and slow traffic down, and can dispatch a traffic officer crew immediately.
The Highway Code provides general guidance on using the hard shoulder.
We have seen many instances of drivers stopping in live lanes to change tyres or attend other issues. This is dangerous and can create problems for other road users.
It’s important to be aware of the Highway Code in case you suffer a tyre blow-out or breakdown on the motorway.
You can join Quentin Wilson for a look at how to use the hard shoulder on the Highways Agency’s YouTube channel.
Information about the hard shoulder is covered in ‘breakdowns and incidents’ in Sections 274 to 287 of the Highway Code.