Smart motorway safety upgrades announced
21 April 2021
Author: Sean Keywood
No new 'all lane running' smart motorways in England will be allowed to open without radar technology in place to quickly spot stopped vehicles, the UK Government has said.
In addition, plans for the technology to be installed on all existing motorways of this type will now be carried out ahead of schedule.
A programme of upgrading cameras to spot motorists illegally driving in lanes closed by red 'x' signs will also be brought forward by ten months, and a six-month acceleration is planned for a scheme to install more warning signs alerting drivers to their nearest place to stop in an emergency.
The measures have been announced with a publication of a report by Highways England on the first year of progress from an action plan to improve safety on the roads.
The agency cites data in the report showing that all lane running motorways are safer than conventional ones, with drivers 33% less likely to be involved in a fatal accident on them during the years 2015-2019.
However, as previously reported by Business Car, the roads have been criticised due to incidents of broken-down vehicles being unable to get out of the way of traffic, due to the lack of a hard shoulder.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said: "Despite the data showing that fatalities are less likely on all lane running motorways than on conventional ones, this doesn't mean all drivers necessarily feel safe on them.
"That is why I tasked Highways England last year with delivering an action plan to raise the bar on safety measures even higher. This progress report shows the extensive work already carried out, but we want to do more.
"Alongside the raft of measures already undertaken, today I am announcing that all new all lane running motorways will open with stopped vehicle detection technology in place, as well as a programme to speed up the roll-out of the technology on previously built stretches of all lane running motorways to next year. This will help us further reduce the risk of accidents on the country's roads."
Road safety charity IAM Roadsmart gave a cautious welcome to the update, noting that a poll of its members found 80% said they felt less safe driving on a smart motorway.
CEO Tony Greenidge said: "Our survey results have given us a strong platform with which to work in partnership with Highways England and Department for Transport to help increase confidence among motorway users.
"We believe that high quality and frequent education is needed to deliver ongoing reassurance to drivers and riders. A new education course and swift penalties for those drivers who put others at risk is also being proposed, to be effective this must be backed up by more traffic police to ensure the new powers are used.
"The plans to automatically enforce red 'x' violations from 2022 are much needed."