Smart motorways creating ‘significant risks’

Smart motorways, which use technology to vary speed limits or allow drivers on the hard shoulder during peak times, are causing serious problems for UK drivers, according to police officials.

How smart motorways work

Around 212 miles of motorway roads in Britain have been converted into smart motorway roads which include lay-bys that motorists can use in emergencies. Smart motorways, also known as managed motorways, can change the speed limit and what lanes are available under three different settings. These settings are controlled motorway, all-lane running and hard shoulder running.

The intention of smart motorways is to keep traffic flowing even when there is congestion or when a problem on the road occurs. However, according to the RAC, senior traffic officers are now warning that smart motorways are causing serious problems for road users.

Police concerns

The concerned officers explain that all-lane running obstructs emergency services, preventing them from getting to accident sites and they’re also stopping police from pulling over drivers. Online reports have also suggested that HGV drivers from overseas, unaware of how smart motorways work, have ended up taking breaks in the lay-bys.

The Metropolitan Police comments that the decision to remove the traditional hard shoulder from parts of the motorway has created “significant risks” for motorists.

These comments contradict the government-owned Highways England, which recently concluded that smart motorways are having ‘no adverse effect on safety’. Highways England has published two interim reports evaluating all-lane running sections on the M25 which found that average journey times had been reduced. The company also says that smart motorways are ‘central to the modernisation of England’s motorways’.

Around 480 miles of motorways are set to lose their hard shoulder in the future as part of the smart motorways scheme. A transport select committee has been launched to examine this move further and Highways England says they’ll continue to work with emergency services as the scheme expands.

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