Smart motorways guide reveals which lanes to avoid
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Chiefs at the AA and RAC have both called for the urgent safety updates which would allow drivers suffering breakdowns to use a form of hard shoulder when visibility is low. However, the new proposals seem similar to the dynamic hard shoulder running amends which Grant Shapps vowed to axe last year.
Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, AA President Edmund King called for a new “middleway” to be rolled out as a “consistent system” across UK motorways.
He said: “In terms of a dynamic hard shoulder I do agree there could be a middleway here.
“It doesn’t have to be confusing.
“If you look at some of the deaths on the M1 they have happened at night when there’s not much traffic when vehicles have been in a live lane.
“If you had a dynamic hard shoulder, for example, you could use the hard shoulder from 7am to 7pm for example.
“But during the night it could be used as a hard shoulder so those crashes that occur in the stationary lane would be less likely to occur.
“If we had a consistent system across all the motorways, if we communicated it before it was opened rather than after it has opened, I think drivers can understand that.”
RAC’s Head of Rods Policy, Nicholas Lyes agreed with the AA’s proposals, suggesting dynamic smart motorways had a “pretty good safety record”.
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He said: “I would say there’s a lot of good points there.
“When you look at the risks involved when you breakdown on a live lane, the data suggests the risk of collusion increased by up to 200 percent.
“When you get to the upper end, generally the risk is much greater at night in the dark.
“What you could do is have a system of a dynamic hard shoulder which operates at peak times only and has refuge areas.
“You have additional gantries and additional signs that can inform people when the hard shoulder is open and coed for running.”
He added: “On a very basic level it’s a solid white line in the road, there is a psychological advantage. Drivers can eliminate where they should or shouldn’t be driving.”
As part of his evidence stocktake into smart motorways, Mr Shapps confirmed his intention to abolish “confusing” smart motorways where the hard shoulder only operated “part-time”.
However, data from the report highlighted how the dynamic smart motorways were safer than the alternative all-lane runnings schemes which are still in operation.
The report found just 27 percent of traffic broke down in a live lane using a dynamic smart motorway, compared to 40 percent of traffic using an all-lane running scheme.
Despite the new evidence, Highways England said it will still focus on implementing the findings of the progress report and the Government’s 2020 evidence stocktake.
It has pledged to work with drivers and parents to make busy motorways safer for anyone who uses them.
It said motorways are the safest type of road in the country with the roads accounting for just 431 deaths out of 7,515 on England’s roads between 2015 and 2019.
A spokesperson said: “Our key objective has always been that any stretch of road that is converted to a smart motorway is at least as safe as it was before conversion, and in terms of fatality rates, smart motorways are the safest roads in the country.
“We recently committed to a raft of measures to further boost safety, including ensuring every new all lane running motorway opens with technology in place to spot stopped vehicles.
“We have submitted evidence to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry where issues related to smart motorways are being debated, and will be appearing before the committee to respond to the members’ questions.”
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