Safety is a big concern when it comes to the roads. Road Safety Week took place recently looking at the actions which can be taken to improve the safety of all journeys made on the road.
One area of the roads currently attracting attention when it comes to safety are smart motorways. First introduced in 2006, stretches of smart motorway are now more common on the UK’s motorways.
But recent news has seen concerns raised over their safety and whether smart motorways are as safe as it was initially thought.
What are Smart Motorways?
Smart motorways utilise technology in a bid to manage the flow of traffic. This can include using technology to monitor the roads and alter speed limits accordingly.
Smart motorways also make use of the hard shoulder. The hard shoulder can be utilised in two main ways on smart motorways:
- The hard shoulder is always open for traffic to use (effectively making it another driving lane)
- The hard shoulder is opened when the motorway is busy
Smart motorways were originally introduced to increase roads capacity and reduce the likelihood of congestion.
Are smart motorways safe?
There has been much discussion in the news in recent months about the safety of smart motorways.
Hard shoulder use
Concerns mostly surround what happens to a vehicle which breaks down when the hard shoulder is used as a driving lane. These broken-down vehicles effectively have nowhere to go. This has the potential to increase the risk of accidents.
On smart motorways there is a reliance on CCTV or SVD (stationary vehicle detection) systems to identify these broken-down vehicles and then allow action to be taken to move them to safety. Some argue this process takes too long and that broken-down cars can remain in dangerous situations for prolonged periods.
Confusion for drivers
Others have raised concerns that smart motorways are confusing for drivers – taking the hard shoulder in and out of use can result in drivers not being sure if they should or shouldn’t be driving in them
Smart Motorway Safety Review
As a result of the concerns raised, the current Transport Secretary has announced that a review of smart motorways will be carried out as quickly as possible to ensure that they are as safe as possible.
If you are likely to be using a smart motorway on any of your journeys it may be worth reading this information on how to drive on a smart motorway. Ensuring that you understand how smart motorways work will help you drive safely.