Are smart motorways safe?

Smart motorways were first introduced in the UK in 2006, but there are concerns that they may not be safe for motorists, emergency services and road maintenance workers.

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What are smart motorways?

A smart motorway is intended to help ease congestion. Traffic is monitored with both sensors in the road itself and cameras. On some smart motorways, if it is required at peak times, the hard shoulder can be opened as an additional lane. Overhead signs inform drivers when the hard shoulder is to be used. There are also some sections of motorway where the hard shoulder is permanently used and the smart motorway technology is used to inform drivers of variable speed limits.

What are the benefits of smart motorways?

According to Highways England, smart motorways have improved journey reliability by 22 percent, reduced personal injury accidents and reduced the severity of those accidents which did occur.

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What are the safety concerns?

Hard shoulders were introduced onto motorways to provide a safe space for road users to stop their vehicle if it breaks down. If the hard shoulder is used as a running lane on a smart motorway, this safe space is removed. This impacts not only the motorists who break down, but also those working in recovery and emergency services, because their safe recovery space is also removed.

Permanent all lane running smart motorways include emergency refuge areas at regularly spaced points. However, not all motorists will be able to reach such a refuge should they experience breakdown on the motorway.

Those working on motorways will wish to take all possible precautions to protect themselves, particularly if they need to stop where there is no hard shoulder. Vehicle chevron kits, such as those available from ~, can be applied to any vehicle, increasing visibility to other road users, particularly when the worker’s vehicle is stationary, assisting a broken down motorist. Greater visibility from the use of vehicle chevron kits helps to reduce the likelihood of collisions and injury.

With work ongoing to implement and improve smart motorways in the UK all motorists need to be aware of the need to pay particular attention to overhead signs on motorways and to be vigilant for those who may have broken down on smart motorways outside the emergency refuge areas.


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