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AA calls for action to save lives on smart motorways

Date: 18 December 2017   |   Author: Sean Keywood

Changes need to be made to the Highway Code to help keep drivers safe on modern motorways, according to the AA.

The organisation has written to Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman MP saying the code should be updated to advise motorists on how to use all lane running motorways, and also that two new rules are needed covering all motorways.

The AA says its letter follows two recent deaths, and a series of serious incidents on hard shoulders and 'smart' motorways. 

It says the letter to Mr Norman was sent on 1 November, but no reply has yet been received.

Currently, the Highway Code only considers motorways as having three lanes of traffic with a continuous hard shoulder, but since 2006 three types of smart motorway have been introduced.

These are: controlled motorways, where the flow of traffic is managed by adapting speed limits, and controlled by speed cameras; dynamic hard shoulder motorways, where the hard shoulder is only used at peak times, and all lane running motorways, with no hard shoulder and emergency refuge areas every 2.5km.

The AA points out that with more than 500 miles of smart motorway already open, and more schemes scheduled in the coming years, the Highway Code still does not advise drivers what to do in the event of a breakdown while using them.

As well as updating the Highway Code in general, the AA has also called for two new rules, one asking drivers to create an 'emergency corridor' allowing emergency services access to incidents where there is no continuous hard shoulder, and another asking drivers to 'slow down and move over' when passing broken down vehicles on motorways, to protect breakdown, recovery and emergency services personnel working on the hard shoulder.

AA president Edmund King said: "Eight out of 10 drivers (79%) say that motorways are more dangerous now compared to four years ago simply because of the removal of the hard shoulder.

"More than a decade on since the introduction of smart motorways, we see these changes to the Highway Code as a necessary step to try to help save lives and improve safety and driver confidence when people use motorways.

"From next year, new drivers will be allowed to take lessons on motorways. We believe these changes would help them understand the differing types of motorway they could interact with before they even drive on.

"Safety is of paramount importance on all of our roads, and therefore we look forward to the Minister taking these important points on board to enhance road safety."

BusinessCar has approached the Department for Transport for comment.