The UK roads are busier and busier with congestion and accidents common place. Although, we don’t need to tell you that if you work in the transport and cargo industry!
One initiative being implemented to try and combat this and improve journey reliability is the smart motorway. First introduced in 2006, here we look at what smart motorways are and ongoing discussions around smart motorway safety.
What are smart motorways?
Smart motorways are stretches of motorway which use technology to try and better manage the flow of traffic. Typically, a couple of difference techniques are used to increase the capacity of the road and reduce the likelihood of congestion:
• Using the hard shoulder as a running lane
• Using variable speed limits
There are three different types of smart motorway
• Controlled – use variable speed limits, have 3 or more lanes but the hard shoulder is used for emergencies only
• Dynamic hard shoulder – also utilise variable speed limits but in busy traffic the hard shoulder is used as a driving lane
• All Lanes Running (ALR) – this type of smart motorway has the hard shoulder permanently converted to a driving lane unless there is an incident. They also have variable speed limits in place
What are the concerns with smart motorway safety?
Smart motorway safety concerns seem to mostly rest with the smart motorways which no longer have a hard shoulder, so particularly the All Lanes Running (ALR) types.
The main concern is that vehicles which breakdown on these stretches of road have nowhere to go to protect them until help arrives. With 100 miles of ALR motorways currently live across the UK and plans to increase this by 225 miles, such is the concern that a group of MP’s have called for the rollout of such smart motorways to be halted until these concerns are addressed.
However, Highways England, who oversee the motorways have stated that the technology used on smart motorways have:
• Made journeys more reliable
• Reduced the number of personal injury accidents by half
• Reduced the severity of accidents which have occurred
Keeping safe on smart motorways
Gov.uk have issued some guidance on driving safely on smart motorways which is certainly worth a read if you are driving on motorways and particularly those which have been upgraded to smart motorways.
As always as well as being vigilant about other vehicles on the road and keeping up to date with the latest driving rules and regulations associated with the type of road you are on, making sure you have adequate insurance in place to protect you and others if an accident should happen is also key.