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Should smart motorways be scrapped?

Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, has recommended that Smart motorways are to be reviewed this week, following concerns over driver safety.

Grant Shapps told MPs: “We know people are dying on smart motorways”.

But what is a smart motorway?

A smart motorway is a section of a motorway that uses traffic management methods to increase capacity and reduce congestion in particularly busy areas.

These methods include using the hard shoulder as a running lane and using variable speed limits to control the flow of traffic.

Highways England (previously the Highways Agency) developed smart motorways to manage traffic in a way that minimises environmental impact, cost and time to construct by avoiding the need to build additional lanes.

They already account for about 400 miles of England’s roads, including sections of major motorways like the M1, M6, and M62.

Are smart motorways dangerous?

Highways England had previously published statistics from data gathered since the first smart motorway opened in 2006 to say:

  • Jour­ney reli­a­bil­ity has improved by 22 per cent
  • Per­sonal injury acci­dents have been reduced by more than half
  • Where acci­dents did occur, sever­ity was much lower over­all with zero fatal­i­ties and fewer seri­ously injured

The RAC says: “In recent years, there has been a movement towards the permanent conversion of the hard shoulder into a running lane which has concerned us.

“The removal of the hard shoulder fundamentally increases the risk to drivers who might suffer a car breakdown and are unable to reach a refuge area.

“To combat this, the RAC has worked with Highways England to increase the numbers of emergency refuge areas (ERAs), increase awareness and prominence of these by getting them repainted orange and to make sure that the latest technology is used to detect when a vehicle is in trouble”.

Highways England were looking to eventually phase out dynamic hard shoulder running schemes in favour of all lane running schemes but following reports of increased deaths on running lanes this week they have changed their tune and have been reported to say that ‘dynamic’ and smart motorways are ‘too complicated’ for drivers.

Mr Jim O’Sullivan, Chief Executive of Highways England, said he did not think he would build any more dynamic smart motorways because too many motorists do not understand them.

What can be done?

Speaking to MPs on the Commons Transport Select Committee, The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps said: “I have asked my department to carry out at pace an evidence stock-take to gather the facts quickly and make recommendations.”

He said his department would lead the review “because some of the statistics have been difficult to understand, and we know people are dying on smart motorways”.

He added: “Understanding whether they are less safe, the same or safer – it turns out not to be as straightforward as members might imagine – I want all of those facts and recommendations that can be put into place to ensure that all of our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be.

“I will get this done in a matter of weeks.”

RAC advice if you break down on a smart motorway

If you are unlucky enough to break down or be involved in an accident while on a smart motorway, you should follow these steps:

  • Use an emergency refuge area (ERA) if you are able to reach one safely. These are marked with blue signs featuring an orange SOS telephone symbol on them. Different types of smart motorways have different ERA spacing, but the furthest you will be away from one is around 1.5 miles. In December 2017, following discussions with the RAC and others, Highways England said: “On all lane running schemes in the future we will be reducing the spacing from the current maximum of 1.5 miles (2.5km) to no more than 1 mile (1.6km) spacing.”
  • If you cannot get to an emergency refuge area, you should try to move on to the verge if there is no safety barrier and it is safe to do so.
  • In all cases, switch on your hazard warning lights.
  • If you stop in the nearside lane, leave your vehicle via the nearside (left hand) door if it is safe to do so and wait behind the safety barrier, if there is one. If you are unable to move over to the nearside lane, remain in the vehicle with your seat belt on.
  • If you can leave your vehicle safely, contact Highways England via the roadside emergency telephone provided in all emergency refuge areas. If it is not possible to get out of your vehicle safely, then you should stay in your vehicle with your seat belt on and dial ‘999’ if you have access to a working mobile phone.

Have you ever travelled on a smart motorway?  Do you feel safe or do you feel they should be scrapped?

Should smart motorways be scrapped?

717 people have already voted, what's your opinion? Yes No

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Loyalty
6 days ago
0
Thanks for voting!
a stupid idea!
where are you supposed to break down now? utterly dangerous.
i wouldn't like to have to sit in a car and wait untill someone slams into the back of me while waiting anxiously for a breakdown van to appear!!
who ever named this idea as 'Smart', needs their head examining!!
swaneldo
22nd Nov 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Neither the motorways nor the people who put them in place are smart. Ditch them and let's get safe motorways instead.
Darkstar
21st Nov 2019
1
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Definately. Use one often, speed cameras set at 40 with no hazards or traffic at night. Just to make money.
jeandiane
8th Nov 2019
0
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Although I’m concerned that they could be dangerous I think too much money had already been spent on them. Plus all the years of upheaval while they were being built.
The drivers who ignore warning signs and speed limits and who still use their phones are dangerous and not the inanimate motorways. !
PensionPlus
8th Nov 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
This should be a priority to return these motorways back to a Hard Shoulder type as Smart Motorways cost lives.
biker babe
29th Oct 2019
3
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Sadly peoples lives have been lost due to confusion, etc, thats enough to ban them for me, we are not used to them.
DavidL5886
28th Oct 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Whoever came up with the ridiculous idea that doing away with the hard shoulder was a cheap way to construct another lane? Of the many reasons I can think of the most important and what should be the most obvious to anyone with an once of common sense is that it is simply not safe.
MrsPat
28th Oct 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
"Smart motorways" This sounds like a "Stupid motorway". Who on earth came up with the idea of not having a hard shoulder? Some dumb politician I should think. Nobody with a ounce of commonsense would do this.
Cornerstone
28th Oct 2019
2
Thanks for voting!
Smart motorways are not a problem if drivers use the motorway correctly. How many times do you see vehicles traveling in excess of the speed limit and no lane discipline.
Examples are ignoring limits through road works.
The middle lane owners club. And there are many more examples.
In the last month on the M4 Reading 50mph I am driving in lane 1 at the correct speed. HGV being aggressive flashing lights honking his air horns.
M42 approaching M40 junction clown in a Audi in the M42 filter exits stage left and onto the M40. My point is that's got nothing to do with Smart motorways bit idiotic drivers.
NeilB15
28th Oct 2019
6
Thanks for voting!
Using a hard shoulder as a driving lane is definitely not Smart! I have no issue with speed reduction to improve the flow of traffic but after nearly running into a broken down car on the hard shoulder of the M42 that was being used as a live lane I can't condone using a hard shoulder.
Robyn65
28th Oct 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
It's plainly obvious to regular users of motorways that the use of hard shoulders as extra lanes in peak times in far too dangerous. Nowhere to stop immediately/asap if someone is sick in the car or there are mechanical problems and emergency vehicles are not able to get through to accident or breakdown locations. Watching ambulances trying to get through a congested motorway when hard shoulder is in use, is frustrating and frightening.

The controlled speed limits do have an effect and are very useful.

No more smart motorways until the use of hard shoulder is removed. [What an ill thought out plan and total waste of millions of pounds.]
StephenA3
28th Oct 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
We drive on the M1 and A1(M) on a regular basis and several sections are “smart” As far as we can see they are designed to cause tail backs and congestion. A typical scheme dreamt up by traffic planners, sitting in their offices, who love bikes and busses but hate cars and lorries. One section of the A1 has a 50 limit on it as an accident reduction scheme, there is inevitably a tail back to enter the section at peak times, sometimes several miles long, it’s simple maths, if a section if road carrying its full capacity of vehicles at at 70mph comes to a restriction where speed is reduced to 50mph then vehicles arrive at the entry point faster than they can go through the restriction, result queues and tail backs.
Andrew49
28th Oct 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Safety should never be comprimised which exactly what smart motor ways do reinstae hard shoulders now.
PamelaMag
28th Oct 2019
7
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I have witnessed 2 near misses on the M25 - Emergency vehicles have no clear path to get to an incident - expensive, dangerous money-makers.
Wilf
28th Oct 2019
5
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I agree no hard shoulders is just stupid
Poppie
28th Oct 2019
7
Thanks for voting!
I think we need somewhere to go immediately if there is a problem, not a potential 15 mile drive away. If sudden illness is a problem you need to stop straightaway. It is also possible that after seeking a refuge area, it will already be occupied. I also wonder how emergency services would be able to attend an incident if there isn't a hard shoulder available and all lanes are being used. This definitely needs a lot more consideration.
GillianL4
28th Oct 2019
6
Thanks for voting!
Smart motorways should be scrapped, they are dangerous. When travelling on them I feel very vulnerable. Supposing you break down no hard shoulder to move to,you are to far away from the refuge area and other cars going so fast ram straight into the back of you,too late to complain once you're dead.
The M6 is the worst one, the answer to M6 is make the toll road more affordable as £5.60 each way means £11.20 a day this is way too much to be justified.
Robyn65
28th Oct 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Completely agree the M6 tollway should be more affordable - it would ease the congestion on M6 considerably and take away need for using hard shoulder as extra lane.
Nannypink
28th Oct 2019
4
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Until all drivers on Smart motorways are smart too they will always be dangerous !
I use the M3 a great deal and never cease to be shocked at the poor driving of the majority of drivers
Clmuk
28th Oct 2019
4
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They cause more issues and slow traffic to a halt. Would be very happy if scrapped
thewho65
28th Oct 2019
6
Thanks for voting!
Extremely dangerous, recently a car broke down on the near side lane immediately in front of me and it was very scary trying to find a gap to get round them, if there's an accident and all lanes are stopped emergency services cannot easily get access to the site, where as on regular motorways the hard shoulder can be used,
Suefor
28th Oct 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
We have a section of the M20 in Kent being made into a so called ‘Smart Motorway’. Before it was started the everyday motorist could see the flaws in this concept. No prior consultation was had with motorists before they started on the work, which, undoubtedly, has cost millions of £££’s to do. This concept is not smart it’s a disaster with accidents and deaths waiting to happen. If there is an accident on these stretches of ‘Smart Motorway’ there is no way for emergency vehicles to get to them. Another huge cost for a stupid idea. Money wasted, yet again. Money that could have gone on repairing all the other roads that are a disgrace.
Yodama
26th Oct 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Hard shoulders are essential, why have they done away with them?
Future planning boffins should have seen ahead of time, that problems were going to arise.
sparrer
26th Oct 2019
7
Thanks for voting!
Never heard or seen such a ridiculous idea in my life. Guaranteed to cause accidents and will certainly make my regular A1 M25 M1 M6 trips far more dangerous. I can only assume that the person who dreamed this one up is a non-driver or needs certifying or both.
EllenG9
26th Oct 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
The motorways were originally designed with hard shoulders and long slip roads for very good safety reasons. They allowed safer places to stop in the event of an emergency and provided sufficient length of road to speed up and rejoin flowing traffic.
Looking at this picture, to be driving near enough the refuge lay-by, in the event of a breakdown, would require a great deal of luck. To try to leave it and rejoin traffic passing at potentially 70mph would be extremely dangerous for everyone. Add in adverse weather conditions and the consequences don't bear thinking about.
The original concept was the safest. Who on earth thought that it could be improved on, in this manner, and at what cost, in money and more importantly, lives?
Len33
26th Oct 2019
8
Thanks for voting!
Yet another crack-pot idea.
When these motorways were constructed, the planners had absolutely no foresight.
Somehow or other, they failed to realise that roads will get busier in due course.
Many, many drivers' have been prosecuted for stopping on a hard shoulder for what was considered to be an inappropriate reason and now 'they' want us to drive on them?
If that becomes the norm and someone is unlucky to break down on them, they can probably kiss their arse goodbye!
Has Grant Shapps taken leave of his senses?
(Highways England? Huh, what a joke)
We don't need to pay his 'department' loads of money to tell us what we already know........................"smart motorways are a death trap...............end of!" What don't you understand about that?
Now get on with some real work and stop faffing about.
Svjjr200
26th Oct 2019
-3
Thanks for voting!
The idea is great.its the standard of driving that’s the problem.The traffic management works very well on the M25.I also think that lane diserplin is a very big problem.
jeanmark
27th Oct 2019
6
Thanks for voting!
Does that mean you would be happy to breakdown, have to stop on a carriage way that was once a hard shoulder, and then see a lorry coming towards you at 50 miles an hour with no other escape even when they see you have stopped?

Hard shoulders were original put there for safety, the risks have not changed but possibly increased, with the volume and speed of traffic, even if everyone drove in the correct lane at the correct speed it wouldn't reduce the risk. The accident on the M4 showed what happens if a driver is obeying the lane 'rule' and the lorry in front suddenly pulls out to avoid an obstruction, that was an example when the hard shoulder is close off, even if temporarily, and a barrier in put in pace.

This idea is a money saving initiative and not a safety one.
DerekA
25th Oct 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
A good idea on paper but not in practice? The idea of even barriered laybys on motorways fills me with horror! Junction slip roads are supposed to allow you to more or less match speeds before joining. Can you imagine the length an entry and exit slip would have to be? As a recovery driver I've seen my fair share of the results of getting joining/leaving wrong, laybys?..you gotta be kidding....
Kes
25th Oct 2019
5
Thanks for voting!
Nothing smart about them whatsoever. Dangerous threat to life is what they are. The info above suggests there have been zero fatalities. That’s just not true. People have been killed, and severely maimed, while in so called hard shoulder running lanes. It’s quite ridiculous to think that people who break down are always going to make it safely to the few and far between refuge areas. Far too many drivers, of all types of vehicles, don’t drive responsibly on normal motorways, let alone so called smart ones. The risk to human life is too great and the smart thing to do it stop it now.
yo
25th Oct 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Someone broke down suddenly in front of me in slow, left hand, lane. On M3 smart motorway.
The traffic behind would not let me out and it was terrifying fearing something would crash into me for at least 5 minutes before I was able to get out.
Wilf
25th Oct 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
Clever idea but i would worry if no hard shoulder
Bald123
25th Oct 2019
6
Thanks for voting!
Bring back hard shoulders or at the very least have frequent "bays" broken down cars can go in.
Mrchipps1
25th Oct 2019
6
Thanks for voting!
I completely agree ,or perhaps we should take a leaf out of Germanys book and have laybys , with barriers where it is safe to stop for short periods. because even if we have laybys on the motorways we are still at the mercy of drivers
MrsPat
25th Oct 2019
3
Thanks for voting!
If they have just started using them why would they be scrapped?
CaroB4
25th Oct 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
Because there have been a number of deaths as a result...they were discussing on the radio this morning. If your car suddenly breaks down and you are in the outside lane....only have to think about it! And if you are driving with children or pets and there is no-where to stop...emergency lay-bys with barriers are needed...as suggested above, Good idea!
jennytwoshoes
25th Oct 2019
1
Thanks for voting!
Used correctly, they are a great advantage
Mrchipps1
25th Oct 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
I think that smart motorways are confusing and need to be either scrapped or drastically looked at and adapted so that drivers can understand them, because I believe that the average motorists does not have any ideas about how that actually work?
Bald123
25th Oct 2019
4
Thanks for voting!
I think the idea is sound but not having hard shoulders is dangerous

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