Smart motorways set for major development as government announces plan to improve safety

Smart motorways set for major development as government announces plan to improve safety

Smart motorway changes will include abolishing the “confusing” dynamic hard shoulder networks which switch between a hard shoulder and a live lane at the push of a button. Proposals will see the distance between emergency refuge bays reduced to three-quarters of a mile to allow road users to reach one every 45 seconds while travelling at 60mph.

Government chiefs have asked Highways England to accelerate their plans to have the technology installed across all-lane runnings schemes within 36 months.

The updates will see an extra £5million spent on improving public information and awareness on smart motorway schemes after the review admitted motorists could be better informed.

However, the Transport Secretary still defended the roads as he concluded they were safer than traditional roads in many ways.

In a statement, Grant Shapps said: “Overall, what the evidence shows is that in most ways, smart motorways are as safe as, or safer than, the conventional ones.

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“But not in every way. So I am clear that more work is needed to ensure that smart motorways are as safe as they can be.”

The report says the risk of a collision between a moving vehicle and a stationary car is higher on non-hard-shoulder motorways.

But the review found the risk of a crash between two or more moving vehicles was lower on a smart motorway because technology had introduced speed restrictions.

The Transport Secretary added: “Messages warning motorists of incidents ahead are displayed on electronic signs.

“This means less speeding, less tailgating and fewer rapid changes of speed. This gives drivers more time to react if something happens.

“The emergency areas we have created on smart motorways, if you can reach one, are also safer places to stop than a hard shoulder.”

The Highway Code will also be updated to prove more guidance to learner drivers on the rules of driving on a smart motorway.

New road signs will inform motorists how far they are away from an SOS emergency refuge zone with the report revealing mock designs for one mile, half a mile and 300-yard signs.

The government has also claimed it is committed to working with sat-nav companies to ensure directions to the nearest zone can be provided in an emergency.

Motoring experts at the AA described the move as a victory for “common sense and safety”  after spending more than a decade campaigning for changes to the roads.

Edmund King, AA President said: “For the last decade we have been campaigning to improve the design and safety of ‘smart’ motorways.

“The measures announced by the Transport Secretary today are a victory for common sense and safety.

Mr King added: “We applaud the current Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP, for instigating the review and taking this issue very seriously.

“We believe the intention to place ERAs at every three-quarters of a mile is a great outcome and what we have called for over the last decade.

 “Together with Stopped Vehicle Detection, more resources to monitor the motorways and a high-profile information campaign this should help make these motorways even safer.”

Published at Thu, 12 Mar 2020 11:33:00 +0000