A two month smart motorways review has resulted in the announcement of eighteen new safety measures that aim to protect broken down vehicles. Alongside new safety measures, the report revealed that an average of 11 people died each year between 2015 and 2018 whilst broken down on a smart motorway.
The review, launched by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, came as a result of widespread concerns about the removal of the hard shoulder on smart motorways; subsequently often leaving broken-down vehicles stranded in a live lane of the motorway. When asked about the stats mentioned in the opening, Shapps remarked that he has been deeply concerned by the number of deaths.
Due to this concern, Shapps has committed to ensure that all stranded motorists are rescued within 10 minutes of their vehicle breaking down, thus helping to remove some of the risk. Delivery of this commitment will be through multiple initiatives; the first being a dramatic acceleration in the deployment of technology that detects stopped vehicles. The entire smart motorway network should be equipped within 36 months.
The maximum distance between refuge areas is set to change to one mile, with the target distance being every three quarters of a mile wherever possible. In places where the distance between refuge areas remains above one mile, the number of Highways England traffic officer patrols will be increased. The aim being to reduce the current response time from 17 minutes to 10 minutes.
When travelling on smart motorways in the future, you’ll also notice that the hard shoulder remains a live lane at all times. This is due to the removal of ‘dynamic hard shoulders’ after some drivers found them confusing and drove in them despite their closure. In future, should a red X be displayed but ignored, a driver can expect a fine of £100 and three penalty points.
The final area of improvement is set to be awareness. An additional investment of £5million will fund national and regional targeted campaigns that aim to give drivers relevant information, offer recovery firms extra training, increase the number of traffic signs and make refuge areas more visible.
The review has been met with praise from industry experts like Edmund King, AA President, who 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.
“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.”
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