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British drivers call for smart motorways to be scrapped

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

In a recent poll carried out for the RAC Report on Motoring, it was recorded that 62% of drivers think smart motorways ought to be scrapped entirely, and the hard shoulder should be reinstated.


Out of the 2,600+ drivers who took part in the survey, research found a staggering increase in safety concerns about smart motorways in general, with 24% of drivers naming them as one of their top overall motoring concerns (up from 16% the previous year.)

Drivers ages 65 and over ranked the most concerned (44%), whilst less than half of drivers (43%) who have driven on all-lane running stretches of motorways said they felt safe, 30% saying they don’t feel very safe, and 24% saying they feel “very unsafe.”

In response, National Highways is implementing a number of measures to compensate for the removal of the hard shoulder. This includes measures such as variable speed limits in response to incidents or to control traffic flow, closed-lane signs, SOS emergency refuge areas up to every 1.6 miles apart and technology to detect slowing or stationary vehicles. However, only 15% of drivers believe they are adequate.

The research shows that a general “fear” of what would happen in the event of a breakdown on a smart motorway is a growing concern for drivers, with 84% of respondents stating that their safety would be compromised by the permanent removal of the hard shoulder (a statistic up from 67% in the 20219 RAC Report on Motoring.)

Nicholas Lyes, RAC Head of Roads Policy, commented that “our research reveals the enormous strength of feeling among drivers of all ages about the safety of all-lane-running smart motorways. But while there’s support for scrapping these motorways across all age groups, it’s highest among those aged 45 and over, with 73% wanting to see the end of these schemes…

We’ve always had safety concerns about all-lane-running motorways and have raised these by giving evidence to two separate Transport Committee inquiries. While the Government published its 18-point action plan in 2020, the RAC has continued to push for new safety features to be introduced as quickly as possible. Although much of the plan is on track and the installation of crucial stopped vehicle detection technology is now due to be completed ahead of schedule, it seems the only thing that will truly satisfy most drivers is the re-instatement of the hard shoulder.”

With this, the RAC believes there’s an alternative option that provides increased capacity without adversely compromising safety. Rather than simply scrapping dynamic hard shoulder schemes, which only open the hard shoulder to traffic at busy times of the day, these schemes could be made the new standard as they still offer somewhere to stop away from live traffic in the event of a breakdown during quieter times, while still accommodating more traffic at busy times.

Following this, Teletrac Navman published a report dashboard which explores the safest roads in the country in terms of fatalities, amongst other leading road safety statistics. Take a look to see how the facts measure up.


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