Although smart motorways have been in the news quite recently, they have been around for a while now. Dynamic hard shoulders were actually introduced back in 2006 and all-lane running has been used on major motorways since 2014.
But it is the roll-out of new all-lane smart motorways that is making headlines, so let’s look into why they are being introduced nationally and the recent updates regarding the progress.
The Reason Behind Smart Motorways
When people stop in the hard shoulder unnecessarily, their risk of injury and death increases dramatically due to the dangerous surroundings. As well as this, the amount of traffic on the roads, especially general haulage, is continuously increasing which, in turn, makes that risk rise and motorways reach their full capacity.
Smart motorways have been introduced to essentially eliminate the danger of the hard shoulder and to cater to the growing capacity of road traffic without incurring disruptive works. By utilising the hard shoulder as an extra lane, there is no need for additional lane to be built or lanes to be widened.
Safety Statistics Supporting Smart Motorways
Regarding the latest generation of smart motorway, data has been collated over 3 years from 2 smart motorway schemes on the M25 and 1 year of date from 7 other schemes across the country. The figures show an overall 18% reduction in risk compared to a conventional motorway and casualty rates have reduced by 28%.
Death toll figures have been lower than conventional motorways, however the Department for Transport has announced that the roll-out of new all-lane smart motorways is to be put on hold.
Why Have Smart Motorways Been Put on Hold?
Even though this data is supporting the safety of smart motorways, this new scheme has been paused until there is 5 full years of safety data to review. The rollout has been put on hold to ensure it definitely enhances safety and gets the results it was designed for.
Although it has been proven to reduce congestion and pollution by enabling vehicles to consistently move, safety is a priority and delaying the rollout will ensure any risk to be as little as possible.
This postponement will help HGV drivers from both the UK and from overseas learn about smart motorways and exactly how they work. By gaining this experience of using smart motorways before the overall rollout, HGV drivers and other road users will be able to achieve a full understanding of what different signage indicates and what to do when you break down. It is of the upmost important for all drivers to stay safe on the roads, particularly HGV drivers with the introduction of longer semi-trailers in April 2022.
All road users need to feel protected using these and with the addition of £900m in safety measures, including £390m for 150 new emergency areas, this is a good indication for the intentions behind smart motorways and what they are being introduced for.