British Driving Expressions And Smart UK Motorways
This weeks Monday English lesson podcast from Adept English is about driving in the UK. New to the UK is the concept of a "Smart Motorway". If you are an English language student, it is worth understanding this and many of the UK specific driving expressions covered in this podcast.
Maybe you intend to drive in the UK, or you may never drive in the UK. Regardless it will help you if you are watching a film on TV or reading a book on the UK or speaking to someone who it traveling in the UK to know what a smart motorway is and how it works.
Hi, I’m Hilary and welcome to this podcast from Adept English. This is our longer Monday podcast – and as ever, designed to help you improve your understanding of spoken English language. Now welcome to you if you’re listening to Adept English for the first time. But before I start the podcast, just a word about the number of listeners now to our podcasts – there are nearly 100,000 of you every month! So, we thought it would be good to reward you, all of you regular podcast listeners, So to say a big thank you I am going to try something new starting this week. Today I’m giving you a discount code which is only available to you my regular podcast listeners. The discount code will give the first 25 people who use it a massive 25% discount on either of our courses (or both of them together!). Once the 25 discount sales are gone though, they are gone. So the first discount code is LISTEN152. And this discount code is active now to give you 25% discount off our courses. It will end at midnight on Sunday 9th September – so hurry if you want to take advantage of this! The code again is LISTEN152.
So this week’s podcast? Well you know that sometimes I like to make it topical and this is a subject which has had my attention this week. So if you’re a really dedicated listener to our podcasts, you’ll know that not only do I have some family who live in France, but I also have family in the North of England and a few times a year, we travel up the motorways to visit them. Well last weekend in the UK was a holiday weekend, August bank holiday, so we did go and visit my family. As ever, the roads, the motorways in the UK were very, very busy – and I think that I’ve complained before to you about just how long it can take to travel [to] places in the UK. I guess it depends what country you live in – you may also have congested roads, I guess. But we really do have a traffic problem in the UK. We certainly do in our cities – if you try to drive in London, you’ll soon know what I mean. However, there’s also a problem on our motorways. There are certain times of the week or certain times of the day even, when you’re a bit mad to set out to make some journeys. You’ll be stuck for hours because there is just so much traffic.
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Smart motorway is not just a catchy driving phrase for UK drivers
So last weekend, when we were travelling, what I noticed was the number of motorways in the UK, which have road works on them, mainly because they are being converted to ‘Smart Motorways’. So first of all, some vocabulary here. If we talk about a motorway in the UK, we mean the really fast roads – the ones where the speed limit is 70 miles per hour. For the Europeans amongst you, remember of course that we’re in miles not kilometres and therefore so are the speed limits. You’ll know when you’re on a motorway in the UK, because all the road signs are blue and the signs are very consistent. They look the same on all motorways, just with different place names on of course. You’re not allowed to drive on the motorways if you’re a learner driver. And except for a couple of short stretches, the motorways in the UK are all free. So unlike the French péage, or the German Autobahn – there are no tolls, there’s no money to pay.
So the motorway network in the UK is very good. There are motorways which allow you to access most areas of the country. However, the traffic is the problem – there are just such a lot of cars on the road.
There are many UK driving phrasal verbs so let's explain a common one "Smart Motorways"
So the road works, which I’m talking about and which we were very aware of last weekend, they were all there, because the motorways are being converted to so-called ‘Smart Motorway’. I say ‘so-called’ because that’s a way of indicating that not everybody agrees that it’s smart idea. And the word ‘smart’ is used here to mean clever. It’s a bit American English to use smart in that way – but basically Smart Motorways means it’s more intelligent use of the road.
So what is a ‘Smart Motorway’? Well, for one thing, it’s got a variable speed limit. So the speed limit is the maximum speed that you can go legally. In order to control the traffic, the speed limit can be varied and it’s displayed regularly above the road on signs. And yes, there are speed cameras above each display, so that if you are going faster than that, you’re likely to be caught. Smart Motorway can also mean that the hard shoulder is used as a lane. Vocabulary again – the hard shoulder is the lane that runs at the side of the motorway, so at the left hand side in the UK, which is there in case you have a breakdown.
You can park your car on the hard shoulder if it’s not working. On some smart motorways, when there is lots of traffic, the signs show that you can drive on the hard shoulder, as though it was a normal part of the road. And then when it’s not busy, the lane again becomes the ‘hard shoulder’. Why is it called the hard shoulder? Well, your shoulders are the parts of your body at either side of your neck, from the tops of your arms to your neck. So I guess these two lanes at the sides of the motorway are a bit like the road’s shoulders. And it’s ‘hard’, because it’s got tarmac on it – it’s a hard road surface.
Smart Motorways will definitely be part of your British driving vocabulary
On some smart motorways, the hard shoulder has gone altogether. It’s been converted so that there are four lanes of traffic running, in order to try to manage the high volume of traffic. So what if there’s a breakdown, you may ask? Well, in this case, apparently the cameras along the motorway will see this pretty quickly – and will put an ‘X’ above that lane, so the cars behind you know not to drive in that lane. There’s also small ‘refuge areas’ - so little bits of hard shoulder every couple of miles.
UK motorways all have an ‘M’ in front of their number – so that’s another way of telling that it’s a motorway you’re driving on. So the motorway that I was driving on last week, which had all the roadworks, converting the road to ‘Smart Motorway’ was the M6, which goes north from Birmingham to the top of England. I also know that sections of the M3, which runs from London to the south coast has been converted to four lanes of ‘Smart Motorway’, because that’s near my house. And it does actually seem to have worked. The traffic flows much better.
If you drive in the UK, you will travel on a "Smart Motorway" so you need to add it to your driving English
So some useful information if you’re thinking of visiting the UK and you’re going to be driving on the motorway. If you’ve not been for a while, you may need to be aware of ‘Smart Motorways’. And just be careful! Just be aware of the fines for speeding. So speeding is when you’re caught going faster than the speed limit and you have to pay a fine as punishment. So if there is a variable speed limit, you can be fined for going more than the speed limit. And the amount of the fine? Well, it varies, depending on how much more than the speed limit you were going and upon what you earn. So if you’re going slightly over the speed limit and you’re caught, up to 10mph more, you can be fined between 25 per cent and 75 per cent of your weekly income, so that’s what you earn each week. If you’re caught speeding 10 mph or more above the speed limit, you’ll be fined between 75 per cent to 125 per cent of your weekly income. And if you’re caught going more than 22 mph over the speed limit, you can be asked to pay between 125 per cent and 175 per cent of your weekly income. Ouch! That would hurt! You also get points on your licence, of course.
So if you’re going to be driving in the UK, be aware of this. Make sure you know all about Smart Motorways. And hopefully they’ll make your journey better – and you won’t be held up in traffic jams!
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
You may not think motorways (even "smart" ones!) or driving expressions are important to you in learning to speak English. The English lesson is useful because it explains a UK specific topic. But do not forget the real value to you as a language student is listening to the everyday native English spoken throughout the lesson.
Listening to the English language, spoken many times, is key to training your brain to listen to native English being spoken and this will improve your English speaking.
We have lots of other tips on learning to speak English here.
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