A government report is due to be published soon, which is expected to condemn so-called Smart Motorways, and the death toll caused by their unsafe design. Doing away with the hard shoulder to speed traffic flow at peak times was always going to cause serious accidents and MPs are expected to criticise Highways England, who pressed on with the policy despite opposition from road safety groups, MPs – and the public – from 2016 onwards.
A BBC Panorama show, due to air tonight, will look at the rising death toll caused by smart motorways. The government now says it plans to increase the number of `safe spaces’ at the side of four lane motorways, and deploy technology that detects vehicles that have come to a complete stop.
Reacting to a report by BBC Panorama that indicates smart motorways are to be fitted with radar technology and more SOS areas in order to improve safety, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said:
“A commitment to install stopped vehicle detection technology on the whole smart motorway network would be a welcome step and something the RAC has called for consistently in recent years.
“RAC research suggests that more than two-thirds of drivers believe that permanently removing the hard shoulder compromises safety in the event of a breakdown. Simply ploughing on with the status quo regardless isn’t an option anymore. However, three years to install this across the network is a long time to wait and questions must be asked as to why this hasn’t already been rolled out universally to date. In the meantime, we would suggest Highways England gives consideration to installing extra cameras to help pick up vehicles in trouble on live lanes to help mitigate for the delay. It is vital that drivers have confidence in the road infrastructure that they are using.
“In addition to this, we have long said the distance between SOS areas was too big so we would welcome a commitment to install more to increase the chances of vehicles being able to reach one in the event of a breakdown and a widescale public information campaign.”
COMMENT: HIGHWAYS ENGLAND STAFF – AND MINISTERS – SHOULD FACE CHARGES
Clare Mercer has told the BBC she plans to sue Highways England over their decision to make sections of the M1 an all-lane running motorway. Good. She feels that the government agency failed in its duty of care and Insurance Edge agrees 100 percent. We believe it would be a good thing if senior staff within the public sector, and government ministers, faced the same court hearings as those in the private sector do, when things go wrong and people lose their lives.
Those who take decisions that cost lives must not feel they can hide behind some collective policy-making process and reams of waffle that effectively pass the buck. In the end, someone signs off legislation, or contracts to build things. That’s where the responsibility lies. The same old reluctant, grudging apologies, blame dodging and `lessons have been learned’ cliches are not acceptable and things must change.
One of the first steps that must be taken is that major insurers must step away from projects such as smart motorways, which are obviously inherently dangerous in their design, poor management and everyday use. This scheme was correctly identified as high risk, a penny-pinching solution to traffic jams, that would cause extra fatalities, right from the start. Why didn’t insurers speak out then?
Insurers are now refusing to cover coal mining and other activities to please climate change lobby groups and activists. Why then, would anyone cover four lanes of traffic heading at 70mph towards a broken down car with people sitting inside it wondering what to do? The policy, the idea itself, is negligent and goes against all the evidence from motorway driving since the 1950s.
If you cannot insure a coal mine because it might hurt the planet, but you can insure the construction of a four lane road that kills families, then your moral compass is heading in the wrong direction frankly.