Smart motorways set to stay in UK after safety review despite 38 people dying on them – The Sun
SMART motorways will remain across the country despite 38 deaths on them in the past five years.
But sweeping changes are set to be introduced across the UK's controversial motorway network in order to address safety fears.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced today a review on the safety of smart motorways had been completed.
Despite admitting the government needed to "raise the bar", he didn't scrap them completely.
Instead he introduced an 18-point action plan to ensure drivers and their passengers were kept safe on the road.
One of the most significant changes is the abolishing of confusing dynamic hard shoulders, which only operate part time and are a live running lane the rest of the time.
Other measures to improve safety on smart motorways
- Speeding up the deployment of stopped vehicle detection technology to cover the network within the next three years, allowing problems to be spotted within 20 seconds and lanes to be closed more quickly.
- Faster attendance by more Highways England traffic officer patrols on smart motorways.
- Reducing the distance between places to stop in an emergency to three quarters of a mile where feasible, and to a maximum of 1 mile.
- Building 10 more emergency areas on the M25 where there has been a higher rate of breakdown.
- Making emergency areas more visible with a bright orange surface, and better signed.
- A £5m campaign to increase public awareness and knowledge of smart motorways.
- Automatic detection of and enforcement action against drivers ignoring the red “X” sign in closed lanes.
The Government will also reduce the distance between emergency refuge areas to three quarters of a mile where possible.
This means drivers on new smart motorways should typically reach one every 45 seconds when travelling at 60mph.
Other measures include speeding up the roll out of vehicle detection cameras which can stop when a car has broken down, faster attendance by Highways England traffic officers on patrol in high-risk areas and installing 10 additional refuge points on the M25.
Smart motorways use the hard shoulder as an active traffic lane to help reduce congestion and ease the flow of traffic.
This means drivers who break down on the high-speed roads could be forced to sit in lanes exposed to live traffic, where other drivers are unaware the hard shoulder has been closed due to a stationary vehicle.
The review comes after 38 people were killed on the dangerous motorways in just five years.
Edmund King, president of the AA, said: "For the last decade we have been campaigning to improve the design and safety of ‘smart’ motorways.
"The measures announced by the Transport Secretary today are a victory for common sense and safety.
"The fact that 38% of breakdowns happen in live lanes on smart motorways means drivers have been at risk. Tragically people have lost their lives, and in some cases coroners have indicated this could have been avoided.
"No driver wants to be stuck in a live lane with nowhere to go; at best it is incredibly distressing, at worst it can be fatal."
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: "I’ve been greatly concerned by a number of deaths on smart motorways, and moved by the accounts of families who’ve lost loved ones in these tragic incidents.
"I commissioned an urgent stocktake of smart motorways to provide a clearer picture of their safety and make recommendations on next steps.
"I envisaged it to be swift, but during the course of our investigations a complex picture emerged – which warranted further work.
"That work has now concluded and overall, evidence shows that in most ways smart motorways are as safe as or safer than conventional ones.
"But I am clear that there is more we can do to raise the bar on smart motorway safety.
"The extended package of measures I have set out will help rebuild public confidence in our motorway network and ensure that safety is firmly at the heart of the programme."
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