How ‘Smart’ are Smart Motorways?

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MPs have raised road safety concerns over ‘smart motorways’ sometimes called ‘all-lane running’ motorways (ALRs).

Last week, the Commons Transport Committee published a report calling for delays in introducing some smart motorways due to increasing safety fears.

The cause for the most concern is all-lane running stretches of road, which involve the permanent removal of the hard shoulder to provide an extra lane to reduce traffic congestion.

While emergency refuge areas are provided at regular intervals for people who break down, vehicles can be left dangerously stranded in fast-moving traffic, putting lives at risk, and leaving emergency services struggling to get through to incidents to help.

Earlier this year, the government announced that it wouldn’t open any new ALR smart motorways unless radar technology is installed to detect stranded vehicles as quickly as possible.

Accidents on smart motorways

Last year, government statistics obtained by Panorama found that 38 people died in accidents on smart motorways between 2014 and 2019.

A Highways England report showed that the number of deaths on motorways without a hard shoulder trebled from five in 2017 to 15 in 2019, although the size of the network also increased in that time.

MPs are questioning if the benefits of ALR motorways are enough to justify the safety risks.

They are asking the government to pause the rollout of new stretches of ALRs for five years to assess the motorways and make existing stretches of road safer.

Other recommendations from the Transport Committee include:

  • Introduction of more emergency refuges so that drivers don’t have to travel as far if they need to stop
  • An independent evaluation of the radar technology used to detect broken down vehicles
  • Changes to the highway code so that drivers in stationary traffic must leave space for emergency vehicles to get through

Director of Novum Law Anna Cole, a specialist road safety solicitor, said: “Motorways are generally safer than rural or urban roads, however, it is worrying that there has been a series of fatal accidents involving smart motorways.

“The removal of hard shoulders means that drivers and passengers’ lives could be put at risk if they are unable to make it to an emergency refuge area in time and are left stranded in a motorway lane.

“More needs to be done to improve safety on smart motorways to prevent further tragedies and more families’ heartache.”

If you or a loved one has been involved in a road traffic accident that wasn’t your fault, our expert solicitors are here to help. To start the process of making your compensation claim, contact us on Freephone 0800 884 0777 or email info@novumlaw.com or complete our online form for a free, no-obligation chat.

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