Mixed response to Smart motorways

Mixed response to Smart motorways

Drivers have reiterated their apprehension over the new 'Smart' motorways being rolled out across England.

Smart motorways will feature new electronic signs and monitoring systems designed to increase safety and cut congestion, while also freeing up long stretches of hard shoulder for regular lane driving.

But a survey by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) has found that two thirds of drivers are not fully aware of Smart motorways having not seen any publicity about them.

Meanwhile almost half (48%) of those who responded to the latest survey - which follows earlier RAC research on the subject - doubt that new monitoring systems on such motorways would be able to protect them in the event of stopping in a running lane.

Some 71% of drivers said they wouldn't feel as safe driving on a motorway with no hard shoulder, while 48% are against the plans to increase the distance between safety refuges - saying that they should be no more than 500 yards (0.45km) apart.

The survey found that 32% of respondents would back a plan to legalise undertaking on Smart roads, while 42% think the new trail systems have helped to reduce congestion. A similar amount (43%) said it had shortened their journey time.

IAM chief executive Simon Best called for more reassurance and information on how safe Smart motorways will be and more guidance on how to use them.

The RAC's main safety concern for traffic using the hard shoulder permanently centres around the fact that emergency refuge areas will be further apart in sections of these schemes (up to 2.5km apart) than the Hard Shoulder Running ones (500-800m apart).

This means motorists who break down on an all-lane running stretch will often find it impossible to reach an emergency refuge area and, therefore, have to stay in a live running lane until it is closed to traffic by the Highways Agency.

Despite extensive CCTV coverage, the RAC believes this will inevitably lead to lives being put at risk and has been highlighting concerns for some months.

RAC technical director David Bizley said: "The RAC has raised concerns with the Highways Agency about the added risk arising from increased distance between emergency refuge areas, and we are disappointed so far at the absence of action to address them.

"Dynamic hard shoulder running has proved to be very successful in terms of reducing congestion at peak periods and has a good safety record. Indeed, so far, these sections of motorway have proven to be significantly safer than a conventional three-lane motorway with a hard shoulder.

"However, we believe the greater distance between emergency refuge areas creates an unnecessary risk to the safety of any motorist breaking down in lane one on an all-lane running section."

Copyright Press Association 2014