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Call for halt to smart motorway rollout

Estimated read time: 3 mins

Carrie Tennick, October 09, 2019

A road safety and breakdown recovery organisation has called on the government to halt the rollout of smart motorways across the UK.

GEM Motoring Assist has urged Highways England to postpone the introduction of the new motorways “until a proper safety review has taken place”.

The organisation has also called for “sufficient refuge areas” to be provided to “assist stranded motorists”.

Motorways ‘statistically safest’

GEM Motoring Assist road safety officer Neil Worth offered some reassurance for drivers: “Motorways may be the fastest roads we use, but they are statistically also the safest; and there are fewer collisions on motorways than on other roads.”

However, he went on to highlight that the high speeds used on motorways mean that when there is a crash, it is likely to be more serious. He explained that this is why, on average, around one in 50 road traffic accidents on motorways is fatal, compared with one in 70 on other roads.

In 2018, 1,782 people were killed on British roads, 109 of whom lost their lives on motorways. A further 25,484 serious injuries were reported to police after road accidents.

Worth added: “We are also asking ministers and highways authorities specifically to call a halt to their rollout of smart motorways across the country until a proper review of safety has been completed and adequate refuge areas provided for drivers.

“In order to maximise safety, we also urge drivers to ensure they know the rules and signs relating to smart motorways, which are becoming more commonplace.”

Highways England must convince public

It comes as MP Lilian Greenwood, head of the government’s Transport Committee, has said Highways England has “a big job” to convince motorists that smart motorways are safe.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, she said: “We've recently written to Highways England because there are these continued concerns from members of the public and other organisations, such as the AA, that it is simply not safe.

“Highways England has got a big job to convince the public and my committee that people are safe and they know what they need to do when they're using a smart motorway.”

Responding, Highways England smart motorways programme sponsor Paul Unwin insisted that smart motorways are “as safe, if not much safer, than traditional motorways”.

Motorists ‘should understand smart motorways’

GEM Motoring Assist said it is “regrettable” that although smart motorways are becoming increasingly common, the Highway Code still offers no specific advice about them. The organisation called this “unacceptable”, particularly as motorists continue to be penalised for being at the wrong speed or in a closed lane.

According to GEM Motoring Assist, it could prove life-saving for motorists to understand how smart motorways operate and to know what to do if they experience a breakdown in a stretch of smart motorway.

The organisation encouraged motorists to plan their journeys so they know when they are able to join and leave the motorway, making it less likely that they would be surprised when choosing the appropriate lane at junctions.

It also said drivers should familiarise themselves with the rules and signs that apply to smart motorways in order to stay safe.

If you have been injured in a road traffic accident on a motorway or any other road in the last three years, you could be entitled to compensation. Give First4Lawyers a call, request a call back at the top of your screen or start your claim here and our friendly and understanding advisors will help you work out what to do next.