New ‘Smart’ motorways deemed unsafe by Highways England

Smart motorways have been called unsafe in a Highways England report uncovered by the AA

New ‘Smart’ motorways deemed unsafe by Highways England

THE AA has uncovered a report, first published in 2016, that claims that so-called Smart motorways could be 216% more dangerous for those broken down than a conventional stretch of road with a hard shoulder.

The report is starkly at odds with the information that was handed to the Transport Select Committee back in 2016 when they were told that Stopped Vehicle Detection Systems (SVDS) would be rolled out across all sections of Smart motorways.

AS it is the SVDS is only in place on a few parts of the road network, with some not due to be completed until 2022 – and that’s if it runs on schedule.

The main danger is that Smart motorways tend to run on all lanes, in fact they are called ALR or All Lanes Running roads. If a motorcycle, car, truck or van were to break down, there is very little room to manoeuvre the vehicle into a safe position – with motorcycles being the most vulnerable of all on the list.

The second problem comes from the SVDS’ not being in place to warn Highways England of the danger, enabling them to turn on the lane closure signs (if they are actually adhered to) and prevent the stopped vehicle from becoming a casualty in an RTA.

In addition to this the AA has learned that of the stretches of motorway that do have the SVDS fitted, it’s sometimes taking too long to activate the safety measures in place. Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “Taking three minutes to set the red-X (the sign on the gantry that closes lanes and advises of stopped vehicles) is too long for someone in a broken-down vehicle to wait.”

He goes on to say, “Expecting someone to wait in a dangerous and life-threatening position for 20 minutes is simply inexcusable.”

Max Brown, head of smart roads at Highways England stated: “The evidence is clear that Smart motorways improve safety, with our automatic stopped vehicle detections systems. The latest generation of Smart motorways has helped to improve safety by at least 25%.”

Speaking about the other sections of smart motorway that don’t have the automated SVDS, he said: “Meanwhile, we are looking at how we could provide the same benefits on all our recently opened Smart motorways upgrades and work on installing as SVDS on the M3 motorway in Surrey and Hampshire is already underway.”

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