Government pledges no more smart motorways without stopped vehicle detection tech

Government pledges no more smart motorways without stopped vehicle detection tech
No new ‘All Lane Running’ (ALR) smart motorway will be opened without radar camera technology to detect stopped or broken-down vehicles quickly, the Government has announced.

The pledge from Transport Secretary Grant Shapps comes as a Highways England report detailed progress made in boosting safety on smart motorways and outlined ways to speed up improvements going forward.

Fears have grown over smart motorways where the hard shoulder is permanently converted to a live running lane to improve traffic flow, as drivers can be left stranded if they break down or have an accident too far from a junction or SOS area.

The Government has promised that plans for all existing smart motorways to have stopped vehicle detection technology installed will be brought forward by six months to September next year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Despite the data showing that fatalities are less likely on All Lane Running motorways than on conventional ones, this doesn’t mean all drivers necessarily feel safe on them.

“That is why I tasked Highways England last year with delivering an action plan to raise the bar on safety measures even higher. This progress report shows the extensive work already carried out, but we want to do more.

So-called smart motorways started to be built in 2001 and I am determined to ensure that technology and exacting standards are in place.”

Despite legislation having been passed in 2019 allowing smart motorway cameras to enforce red X 'closed lane' signs, it has only now been confirmed that all cameras will be upgraded by 2022.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes welcomed the Government’s new plan to increase safety but said: “We are concerned that drivers will still need to wait up to 18 months before all cameras are enforcing ‘red X’ lane closed signs”.

“We welcome the Government’s commitment that no smart motorway will open without the important stopped vehicle detection technology as this should improve safety significantly.

“Enforcement is vital in getting all drivers to obey these signs as anyone who disregards them is at a much greater risk of being in collision with a stranded vehicle.

“With the Government seemingly committed to all lane running smart motorways, it is imperative they’re made as safe as possible by using all the technology and highway design features at their disposal.”

The Highway Code will also be updated this year ahead of schedule to provide drivers with more guidance about driving on smart motorways.

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