The new so-called 'smart' motorways are being rolled out across the UK, however road users are apprehensive about what this will mean for their road safety.
Among the roads that have recently been expanded to create a smart motorway is the M25, circulating London. As a means of improving traffic flow during busy times, it is having its hard shoulder turned into an extra lane; a move that will be replicated on other busy motorways.
The Highways Agency says that this will reduce journey times and provide a boost for the local economy. However, a poll by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) found that 71 per cent of drivers thought they would be less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder.
Respondents feared that there would be too much distance between safety refuges on smart motorways, with 48 per cent saying that they thought these should be no more than 500 yards apart.
While there will be electronic signs in place with a view to protecting them, 40 per cent were sceptical about how effective these would be if they needed to stop in a running lane.
Chief executive of the IAM Simon Best said: “SMART motorways are being rolled out across England but our survey shows that drivers want more reassurance and information on how safe they will be and how to use them. The IAM has been supportive of hard shoulder running but we have always said that the Highways Agency must be quick to learn and implement any real world lessons as more schemes come into use.”
There are three types of motorway that constitutes as smart. Controlled motorways are those where there are three or more lanes with variable speed limits and where the hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency.
Those known as hard shoulder running will have this area opened for use as an extra lane during busy periods. Overhead signs will point out to drivers whether or not they can use these lanes.
Meanwhile, all lane running motorways are those with no hard shoulder at any time.
Posted by Danielle Barge