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Smart motorway in operation, M54 lanes merged into the M6, hard shoulder

Smart motorways dangerous to drivers: report

NEWSBYTE: The UK’s smart motorway strategy is flawed and puts drivers at risk, according to former roads minister, Mike Penning.

His comments come in the wake of 38 deaths on smart motorways over the past five years – a loss of life that Penning suggested has been caused by authorities cutting corners in implementing some schemes.

Smart motorways often use a combination of on-road and gantry sensors, cameras, electronic signage, and traffic control technologies to regulate the flow of vehicles and avoid delays. Some open the hard shoulder to traffic to ease congestion during busy periods.

However, an all-party parliamentary group on roadside rescue and recovery has criticised the lack of Stopped Vehicle Detection systems on these stretches of road.

MPs also highlighted the insufficient number of emergency refuge areas for drivers if they break down when the hard shoulder is in use as a standard lane.

These oversights have left some motorists stranded in fast-moving traffic and delayed the arrival of support services, putting drivers of recovery vehicles at risk too.

There have also been criticisms of motorists being penalised for driving under the 70mph speed limit when lower limits are in force to regulate traffic flows – as opposed to during bad weather or following an accident.

Penning – Conservative Chair of the MPs’ group – said that rollout of the scheme had been conducted with “a shocking degree of carelessness – smart motorways today do not resemble the designs I signed off as roads minister”.

He added, “Highways England appear to have casually ignored the commitments they made to the House of Commons in 2016. That is not acceptable.”

Penning called for all smart motorway schemes to be suspended in the UK until these problems can be addressed and the roads made safer for drivers.

Photo © Bill Boaden (cc-by-sa/2.0)

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