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  • Mark Salisbury

IAM RoadSmart welcomes progress on smart motorways

Updated: May 11, 2023

In a statement from Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Research, IAM RoadSmart "One death on a smart motorway is one too many, so we welcome today’s update from National Highways on the Smart Motorway Stocktake and Action Plan, outlining their progress on delivering safer smart motorways.

"We are now seeing the delivery of safety technology that was promised when the motorway designs were first proposed. Later this year, every existing smart motorway will have stopped vehicle technology (SVD) fitted to alert drivers of incidents ahead. Combined with a 50% increase in emergency refuges by the end of 2025, increased signage and upgraded enforcement cameras, smart motorways can now be seen as a much safer way to travel.

"For these systems to keep drivers moving safely, the measures must be reliable. IAM RoadSmart supported a 5-year moratorium on new smart motorway building to allow a full safety picture to be evaluated and real-world lessons to be learned. National Highways must now use this time to drive down casualty rates even further and improve the maintenance and performance of its often-ageing safety related infrastructure.

"Statistics may show that smart motorways have fewer fatal crashes than conventional motorways, but far too many drivers don’t feel safe on them. It is vital that National Highways build on this report to keep the public informed and continue to raise awareness of how to drive safely on smart motorways, so drivers feel confident to use these major national routes rather than avoiding them and travel on riskier A-roads."

Commenting on the latest update on Smart motorways by National Highways, Edmund King, AA president, said: “While it is good to see progress in implementing further safety measures on smart motorways, our view all along has been that these motorways should never have been rolled out without these measures in place to start with, which is why we pleased that many of the actions the AA called for are now being implemented.

“The latest data backs up why we called continuously for more ERAs and better radar systems. The five-year average shows that when a vehicle is stopped in a live lane of any form of smart motorway, it is worse across all safety metrics when compared to a motorway with a permanent hard shoulder. We have seen progress with 100-mile roll out of Stopped Vehicle Detection but a recent serious incident on the M3, where a bridge seems to have prevented the radar working, reminds us that it is not infallible.

“Last month, more than eight out of 10 drivers (82%) told us they would find breaking down on a smart motorway a stressful experience compared to just 57% who would be stressed breaking down on a motorway with a permanent hard shoulder. This clearly shows that most drivers are still not convinced that removing the hard shoulder is a smart move. We will continue monitoring and pressing for improvements.”

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While good progress is being made in upgrading existing smart motorways by installing stopped vehicle detection technology and more refuge area signage, the key question is whether these changes are enough to reassure drivers, many of whom firmly believe that removing the hard shoulder compromises safety. While the Government is keen to point out that all-lane-running smart motorways tend to have a better overall safety record than conventional motorways, the safety comparisons with other types of smart motorways are less impressive.”



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