It’s no secret that many drivers think that the Highways Agency and politicians are negligent, and putting lives at risk with this policy, yet still the roll-out of so-called Smart Motorways continues;
Six in 10 drivers (62%) think that all-lane-running smart motorway schemes should be scrapped entirely and the hard shoulder reinstated, while retaining the technology that manages traffic flows and detects breakdowns, according to research carried out for the RAC Report on Motoring 2021.
Only a quarter of the 2,600-plus drivers (24%) surveyed by the RAC support the continuation of current government policy, which is to stick to four permanent running lanes and no hard shoulder, while increasing the number of emergency refuge areas and including extra technology to detect stationary vehicles and cameras to catch motorists who put others at risk by ignoring closed-lane signs.
Overall, most drivers (63%) do not believe the measures being implemented by National Highways to compensate for the removal of the hard shoulder – such as variable speed limits in response to incidents or to control traffic flow, closed-lane signs, SOS emergency refuge areas up to every 1.6 miles apart and technology to detect slowing or stationary vehicles – are adequate. Just 15% stated they thought they were adequate, with a fifth (21%) unsure.
UNSAFE AT ANY SPEED
The fear of what would happen in the event of a breakdown on an all-lane-running motorway clearly weighs heavy on drivers’ minds with 84% believing that safety is compromised by the permanent removal of the hard shoulder – up from 67% when drivers were last asked this in the 2019 RAC Report on Motoring.
More than six-in-10 (63%) of drivers think the typical distance between SOS areas of up to 1.6 miles/2.5km is too great, up from 55% in 2019 which explains why eight-in-10 (79%) worry they will be unable to reach one if they broke down, up from 70% in 2019. And, despite National Highways’ ‘Go Left’ campaign introduced in March 2021, less than half of drivers (46%) say they know what to do in the event of breaking down in a live lane, almost unchanged on the 2019 figure (49%)
Drivers also lack confidence in the authorities’ ability to respond to live-lane breakdowns or incidents. Just 30% of motorists say they trust National Highways’ abilities to detect a stationary vehicle in a running lane and react accordingly, down sharply from 53% in 2019, while only 54% say the majority of drivers obey red ‘closed-lane’ signs which are used to keep traffic out of lanes where a breakdown or other incident has occurred, down from 60% two years ago.
It is astonishing that so many people in senior positions within the public sector feel that motorway users are now expendable in a Hunger Games scenario. The all lanes running policy has been criticised from the start and several people have died as a result, but there has been no action taken against those who created fatal accident conditions, via penny-pinching policies. If a company fails to follow safety laws and an employee dies then its directors may face court action – why is the public sector exempt from those same laws?