Do you feel safe on a smart motorway?

  • Smart motorways feel less safe, say surveyed drivers
  • Scheme uses hard shoulder as a fourth lane to ease traffic
  • Vote in our poll to have your say - do you feel safe?

A survey published in September 2016 has suggested that opening up the hard shoulder for use as a fourth lane may help traffic flow but motorists perceive the lack of emergency refuge space as dangerous.

A poll of more than 20,000 people revealed that eight out of 10 drivers believe smart motorways (also known as managed motorways), which allow the use of the hard shoulder along with variable speed limits to control the flow of traffic during times of congestion, have made motorways more dangerous than they were four years ago. 

In response the AA, which carried out the survey, raised these concerns with the new Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling.

Fewer places to break down

The main concern of those polled was the lack of safe places to seek refuge in the event of an emergency or mechanical failure. 

Highways England states that there should be Emergency Refuge Areas (ERAs) no more than 1.5 miles apart on smart motorways – while the AA is calling for at least twice as many. 

A greater frequency of ERAs would reduce the chance of a car having to stop in a live motorway lane, where it could be hit by other motorists.

More ERAs needed

Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “Whilst we support measures to improve motorway capacity, we do not think that safety should be compromised. We do not accept that the current criteria of an Emergency Refuge Area or exit at least every 2.6km is safe.

“Breaking down in a live running lane with trucks thundering up behind you is every driver’s worst nightmare. The official advice is to dial 999, which just shows how dangerous the situation can be.

“If drivers can see the next lay-by, they are much more likely to make it to the relative safety of that area even if their car has a puncture or is overheating. If they can’t see the lay-by, they often panic and stop in a live running lane. If more lay-bys are designed at the planning stage it will be less expensive and safer.

“It is time for the Government to go back to the drawing board and design a scheme acceptable to drivers.”  

Now, have your say and vote in our poll: