Safety on the Hard Shoulder: Motorway Safety

29 April


The hard shoulder on a motorway is there to provide motorists having severe car problems with a place to stop and seek help.

The hard shoulder is considered to be a very dangerous place, especially when you need to exit your car in order to call for help. If you have no choice but to use the hard shoulder, then knowing how to do so safely is extremely important.

To protect any passengers, other drivers and you, following the rules is crucial.

When to use the hard shoulder:

It is only suitable to use the hard shoulder in an emergency and when you have no other option available. Using the hard shoulder is only permitted in three circumstances:

  1. If your car has broken down- If you are having significant car problems and are posing an imminent danger to yourself or other drivers then you are permitted to pull onto the hard shoulder if possible.

  2. The police have indicated for you to pull over- If a police vehicle has directed for you to pull over, for any reason, then you must pull on to the hard shoulder as soon as it is safe to do so.

  3. If there is an emergency- If there is a prominent problem with your car and you feel you are unable to continue driving then you are allowed to use the hard shoulder.

The hard shoulder is designed for emergencies only so it is advised that if you are able to continue driving you should stay on the motorway until you reach the next service station and exit there to seek help instead.

Staying safe on the hard shoulder:

There are many dangers that the hard shoulder poses to motorists that use it. Follow these protocols should help to ensure that you can stay safe in an emergency. 

  • Warn other drivers- When you have stopped on the hard shoulder, immediately put on you hazard lights to tell other drivers that you have stopped and to alert them of the danger.

  • Exit the car- Staying in the car puts you and the passengers at risk from being hit by another car. As soon as you are able to it is advised that you leave the car, using the left side, and make your way out away from the road and on-coming traffic.

  • Seek help- Ring for help as soon as you are able to. Emergency work shouldn’t be performed by the driver on the hard shoulder. If you have a mobile phone then ring for breakdown assistance from beside your car or on the grass verge. In circumstances where you can’t call out then there are phones at regular intervals along the hard shoulder that you can use.

Leaving the hard shoulder:

In most cases, depending on the severity of the problem, you will be able to re-join the motorway. Once the breakdown services have given you the OK you can re-enter your car, doing so from the left hand side to minimise the risk. If the traffic is moving fast then you are allowed to use the hard shoulder to increase your speed before re-joining the motorway, otherwise, re-join as normal.

Hopefully you’ll never have to use it but these are some helpful hints to ensure that if you do ever have to use the hard shoulder, you are equipped with knowledge to do so safely.

Share this article