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National Highways delivers smart motorway safety upgrade

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Smart Motorway Stocktake – Second Year Progress Report confirms the installation of new safety equipment on smart motorways without a permanent hard shoulder will be completed by end of September.

National Highways said it was on course to upgrade almost 100 safety cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles that ignore Red X lane closure signals by the end of September. This is designed to increase compliance with the Red X, helping to ensure the safety of drivers and their passengers in difficulty, or road workers and emergency services who need a safe space to work.

More signs will also be added to the more than 330 extra signs already installed to inform drivers of the distance to the next place to stop in the event of a mechanical problem or emergency.

Extra safety measures for smart motorways Picture: National Highways
Extra safety measures for smart motorways Picture: National Highways

National Highways is also on track to complete the roll-out of radar-based technology that can spot a stopped or broken-down vehicle on over 200 miles of All Lane Running (ALR) motorway by the end of September 2022.

The Smart Motorway Stocktake – Second Year Progress Report underlines the progress made against the action plan first published by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in 2020 to further improve safety and boost drivers’ confidence when using the motorway network.

In January, the Department for Transport and National Highways agreed to pause the roll-out of new ALR schemes – those yet to begin construction – until five years of safety and economic data is available. The pause will enable the Government to make informed decisions about enhancing capacity on the strategic road network. It was also announced that £390m would be spent on new emergency areas or other places to stop in an emergency.

Smart motorways without a hard shoulder have been developed to create more space on the UK's busiest roads.

New in-depth analysis published as part of today’s report confirms that overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are the safest roads on the strategic road network.

It also indicates that the risk of a collision between moving vehicles is lower on ALR and Dynamic Hard Shoulder (DHS) motorways – where the hard shoulder operates only part-time – than conventional motorways.

National Highways says some drivers and stakeholders continue to raise concerns about smart motorways and, in particular, the risk of breaking down in a live lane. While most of these breakdowns do not lead to serious or fatal casualties, it can affect how people feel. So National Highways is taking steps to address this.

National Highways also acknowledges research suggesting drivers’ confidence is higher when travelling on dual carriageways and major A-roads than on smart motorways. This is despite the comparatively reduced risk of travelling on smart motorways. In response, National Highways sets out how it is giving more clarity to drivers so that they can feel safer on these roads.

National Highways’ chief executive Nick Harris said: “Our network is relied upon by an ever-increasing number of people to work, visit family and friends, do business and much more. It is only right that these drivers and their passengers are safe and, crucially, feel safe on our roads, including smart motorways.

“It is now two years since the Transport Secretary first published the smart motorway stocktake and today’s report shows that we are making good progress delivering on these ambitious recommendations. But we are not complacent.

“The latest data shows that, overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are our safest roads. We are continuing our work to make them our safest roads in every way. We will continue to build on the work already undertaken and continue to put safety first to help ensure drivers have confidence in the motorway network.”

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