Majority of UK drivers think smart motorways should be scrapped

By 20th September 2021No Comments

A new report from the RAC reveals that 62% of UK drivers think all-lane running smart motorways should be scrapped, with the hard shoulder reinstated. The report does, however, show public support for the technology that manages traffic-flow.

In a survey of 2,600 drivers, only 26% support the continuation of current government policy, which is to stick to four permanent running lanes and no hard shoulder, increasing the number of emergency refuge areas, using extra technology to detect stationary vehicles, and cameras to catch motorists who put others at risk by ignoring closed-lane signs.

63% of drivers do not believe that measures implemented to compensate for the removal of the hard shoulder are adequate. 15% of drivers answered that they do believe the measures are adequate, with the remaining 21% unsure. These measures include:

  • 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
  • Technology to detect slowing or stationary vehicles

Safety concerns are a major reason for drivers’ lack of confidence in the system. A total of 24% of those surveyed by the RAC cited smart motorways as their primary safety concern on UK roads, up from 16% last year. Some 24% of drivers feel “very unsafe” according to the figures. Drivers older than 65 were especially concerned about the safety of smart motorways: 44% listed it as their top concern.

43% of drivers who have driven on all-lane running stretches of motorway feel safe on them, while 30% said they don’t feel very safe and a 24% stated that they feel ‘very unsafe’.

Drivers are clearly worried about what might happen in the event of a breakdown on an all-lane running motorway without a hard shoulder: 84% believe that safety is compromised by the lack of a hard shoulder.

The findings concur with a poll conducted by IAM RoadSmart earlier this year, in which 84% of the 4,500 respondents surveyed had little faith in the current safety systems’ abilities to detect them if they were to breakdown in a running lane and protect them until help arrived. 85% of respondents reported that they want a halt on the construction of smart motorways until the safety case is fully proven.

Watch this video for advice on using smart motorways safely

In response to the IAM RoadSmart poll, Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart Director of Policy & Research, said: “Our members include many high mileage, experienced and confident motorway users but the results of this survey are clear to see, with the vast majority having very little, or no confidence, in the safety of smart motorways.

“We would urge the Department for Transport and Highways England to listen to what smart motorway users are saying and to consider our findings, along with other in-depth research, to determine the best approach to developing the smart motorway network. Delaying decisions on smart motorways will only lead to more drivers getting stressed.

“Alongside more education for drivers, IAM RoadSmart wants to see strong leadership with clear decisions taken soon on whether the programme should be reversed, or provided with the appropriate funding that will speed up delivery of the promised refuges, CCTV and vehicle detection technology.”

For now, smart motorways will continue to be a feature of UK driving, making driver education especially essential.

What can employers do to help?

Business drivers, especially those covering high mileages, are likely to spend a lot of time on the motorway network. As a fleet, HR or H&S manager, you can play a key role in ensuring that drivers are fully up-to-date with the latest developments through regular bulletins and publication of the latest road safety campaigns through your internal communication channels.

Our CHOICES online platform offers a really easy way to roll out these important communications, confirm that your drivers have read them, and also to assign them bite-size modules covering such essential topics, including memorable instructional videos like the one above. Get in touch to find out more about signing up your drivers.

Charlie Reynolds

Author Charlie Reynolds

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