Smart motorways have attracted a lot of criticism concerning their safety. But Highways England claims new data proves they’re as safe as conventional ones.
Smart motorways, which were introduced in 2006, are intended to tackle congestion and improve overall capacity. They work by using variable speed limits and the hard shoulder as temporary lane; or by eliminating it altogether depending on the variant. Critics have suggested that they can be confusing for motorists and leave them exposed should they break down. But Highways England Chief Executive Jim O’Sullivan isn’t having any of it. He claimed, “the days of conventional motorways are over. Our next challenge is to connect the country, to create a connected spine for continuous traffic management.”
Fewer Deaths And Injuries
Despite fears concerning the lack of a hard shoulder, Highways England claims that overall breakdowns have actually fallen. O’Sullivan said, “we are seeing fewer breakdowns on smart motorways – people take maintenance more seriously – and we also have fewer vehicles running out of fuel (5-10% of all breakdowns)” He added, “this is because of the signage pointing to the next fuel station.” Data also shows that the number of people killed or seriously injured on the roads declined in 2017 by 7.6%. A similar reduction is expected once the same data is published for 2018. It means Highways England is on track to realise its target of a 40% reduction of killed and seriously injured people (KSI).
O’Sullivan also has advice for commercial and fleet drivers. He suggested that, “everyone should put the Highways England phone number into their mobile. As well as the details of their breakdown provider.”
What It All Means
Highways England clearly has a lot of faith in smart motorways, so much so that ‘conventional’ motorways are regarded as being at the end of their lifespans. This means we can expect to see far more variable speed limits and red ‘x’ signs in the future. Ultimately, this can pose a compliance risk for fleets, as drivers more frequently run afoul of speeding penalties; usually because they fail to pay attention to temporary speed limits.
Richard Brown, Sales Director at License Check, said “drivers could notch up sufficient penalty points for possible disqualification on just a single journey if they are not continually aware and do not observe motorway speed limits, increasing the onus on fleet managers to check their licences on a more frequent basis. Annually is no longer sufficient.” Brown also believes that smart motorways will lead to motorists being monitored more extensively, increasing the need for compliance and concentration further.
Whether Highways England’s data will silence naysayers remains to be seen. The simple fact of the matter is that change, especially on this scale, is bound to attract controversy. What do you think, do you think smart motorways are safe and should conventional motorways be scrapped?
Nearly A Quarter Of Motorists Are Ignoring ‘X’ Signs On Smart Motorways: https://www.autoservefleet.co.uk/latest-news/nearly-quarter-motorists-ignoring-signs/
Highways England Is Urging Motorists To Tow Safely This Summer: http://autoserve.co.uk/motoring-tips-advice/motorists-tow-safely-highways-england/