Smart motorways are a feature on many stretches of motorway across the UK today. They use technology to ultimately try and better manage the flow of traffic. However, since their introduction there have been many groups who have highlighted safety concerns with some of the techniques these roads use – such as incorporating the hard shoulder as a driving lane, effectively leaving nowhere for broken down or stranded cars to escape to.
Here we look at smart motorway safety concerns, why rollout has been halted and when the government review is likely to complete.
What are the smart motorway safety concerns?
There have been ongoing concerns over the safety of smart motorways for a long time now.
However, a recent BBC Panorama documentary highlighted figures including:
- 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in 5 years
- A 20-fold increase in near misses on a stretch of the M25 where the hard shoulder was removed in 2014
- It currently takes an average of 17 minutes for a broken down/stranded vehicle to be spotted on smart motorway stretches
- And another 17 minutes to be rescued
Smart motorway rollout halted
A review of smart motorway safety had been announced back in October 2019. But the government took a further step earlier this year. And on the 30th January 2020, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, announced that the continued roll out of smart motorways will be halted amid safety concerns. And that no new smart motorway stretches will open until a safety review has been carried out by the government.
Sections of smart motorway which are currently open and operational will remain so.
The transport secretary was earlier quoted as stating that we shouldn’t have smart motorways unless they are ‘at least as safer, if not safer than ordinary motorways’.
When will the government review of smart motorway be released?
The government has today (12th March) released recommendations with regards to the future of smart motorways and measures that will be put in place to address smart motorway safety concerns.
- Opening of hard shoulders for motorway traffic in busy periods will no longer happen
- The number of places to stop in an emergency will be increased on motorways where the hard shoulder has been removed
- Making emergency areas more visible
- Adding more signs indicating how far away the next place to stop in an emergency is
- Increasing the rate at which technology to detect ‘stopped vehicles’ is installed
- Increased communication about smart motorways to increase user understanding and awareness of how they work
Take a look at the full details of the smart motorway review on the gov.uk site.