Humans are adaptable, that’s how we evolved, which is why Smart motorways don’t work very well. Most of us can see that the situation is inherently dangerous and drive accordingly; slower speeds and avoiding lane one is the best way to complete your journey without a near death expeience.
Here’s the word from the RAC;
Half of drivers (49%) say they frequently or occasionally avoid using lane one on ‘all lane running’ smart motorways – a revelation that completely undermines the very reason so many hard shoulders have been permanently turned into running lanes: to increase road capacity. The new RAC research, conducted with 1,904 drivers who have driven on ‘all lane running’ smart motorways, found that a fifth (21%) claimed to have frequently steered clear of the left-hand, inside lane while 28% admitted to doing so occasionally.
A majority of drivers (68%) also said they regularly see motorists using other lanes when the inside lane is free, with a further 20% claiming to witness this sometimes and 5% very occasionally. Asked why they deliberately avoid driving in lane one, an overwhelming three-quarters (77%) of drivers say they are worried they might encounter a stationary, broken-down vehicle as there is no hard shoulder while 40% are fearful of being crashed into if they had to stop.
The second most common reason for not using the inside-most lane on an ‘all lane running’ motorway, cited by 52% of drivers, was the belief that it is mostly used by HGVs and would lead to them frequently having to overtake. Similarly, 38% say traffic in lane one is usually going much slower than 70mph and one-in-five (22%) state it is usually too congested so it’s easier to stick in another lane. A further 18% claim it’s just ‘easier’ to drive in lanes two, three and four.
MORE REFUGE SPACES NEEDED
When questioned about what could be done to improve safety on ‘all lane running’ smart motorways three-quarters of drivers (74%) say they would feel safer if there were more refuge areas – with such areas a necessity on these stretches of road in the absence of the hard shoulder. Seventy-two per cent would be reassured by technology that detects stranded vehicles while 56% want to see more gantry signs which show the speed limit and whether lanes ahead are closed. Fifty-six per cent also want cameras to be used to enforce the ‘red X’ closed-lane signs, something which is only just beginning despite almost all cameras having been ready to do this since April this year.
Almost half (45%) believe more control centre staff monitoring these roads are needed and more than a third (37%) would like to see more National Highways patrol officers up and down the carriageways. But, for an adamant 15% of those surveyed nothing can be done to make them feel safer.
Separate research for the 2022 RAC Report on Motoring found that a clear majority of drivers (70%) want to see ‘all lane running’ smart motorways scrapped in favour of schemes where a hard shoulder can be opened and closed according to how much traffic there is. Just 7% want to see further ‘all lane running’ schemes rolled out, with a quarter (23%) undecided at to which configuration is best.