Smart motorway changes do not protect drivers who could breakdown, say motoring experts

Smart motorway changes do not protect drivers who could breakdown, say motoring experts

The experts said they were disappointed the changes did not go further and warned only time would tell whether the changes were really an improvement. They stunningly urged the government to prioritise extra refuge areas and has pushed for officials to take into account those with mobility issues who can’t get out of cars easily.

Extra road signs and national awareness campaigns have been suggested alongside plans to work with sat-nav services to provide updates to motorists in trouble on the roads.

RAC head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes said: “While it is welcome that the Government has listened to their concerns and undertaken this review.

“It remains to be seen whether these measures go far enough to protect drivers who are unfortunate enough to break down in live lanes.”

Mr Lyes raised concerns about how red X gantries had been overlooked in the report as he claimed the safe running of the roads relied on drivers being able to react to lane closures using the lights.

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He added: “We are disappointed that the review has not looked at the spacing of red X gantry signage as we believe in too many instances signs are spaced too far apart, increasing the possibility of drivers not seeing them.

“The difference between a driver seeing and reacting to a red X sign, or missing it, could literally be life or death.”

Breakdown and road recovery expert, Kieron Kavanagh, MD of Kavanagh Rescue, also raised concerns with the plans announced by the government.

With experience in dealing with broken down vehicles along the side of smart motorway lanes, Mr Kavanagh said the only way to cut the risk was to reinstall hard shoulders to the networks.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said: “Regarding the smart motorway announcement, anything that can be done to minimise danger to the motorist is welcome.

“However, scrapping the existing 60 miles of dynamic smart motorways where the hard shoulder is used as a normal running lane at peak times and converting them to permanent all lane running routes without a hard shoulder won’t make a vehicle broken down in the live lane any safe.

“The only way to reduce danger is to reintroduce hard shoulders and rethink the whole smart motorway project.”

Other motoring organisations jumped to the defence of the government as they hailed the upgrades as common sense.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Alex Buttle, director of comparison site motorway.co.uk said the changes were “smart” as previous designs had left motorists at risk.

He said: “We are disappointed that the review has not looked at the spacing of red X gantry signage as we believe in too many instances signs are spaced too far apart, increasing the possibility of drivers not seeing them.

“The difference between a driver seeing and reacting to a red X sign, or missing it, could literally be life or death.”

In a statement provided to the report, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps claimed the evidence has revealed smart motorways were as safe or potentially safer than conventional motorways.

However, he did admit work was needed to ensure the roads were as safe as they could be.

The report found the risk of a collision was higher between a vehicle and a stationary vehicle on roads without a hard shoulder installed. 

Published at Fri, 13 Mar 2020 13:49:00 +0000