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Smart motorways improve safety rating but still miss one key target

By Tom Gibson | October 11, 2022

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After coming under intense scrutiny for being unsafe, four safety improvements were due to be implemented and only three have been hit.

Smart motorways improve safety rating but still miss one key target

National Highways, the organisation responsible for implementing the safety changes on smart motorways across the country has admitted it has failed to hit one key safety target.

The changes were brought in by an action plan published by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in May 2022 after a report raised concerns about the number of deaths and serious injuries.

Three improvements have been met, which are the retrofitting of stopped vehicle detection technology to all existing smart motorways that do not have a hard shoulder, the installation of additional 330 signs on motorways showing the distance to the next emergency stopping area, and an upgrade to 95 enforcement cameras to enable them to detect vehicles that are driven illegally in closed lanes and enable the authorities to fine the drivers.

However, the one target that doesn’t require some sort of manual installation and instead a practical test has been failed, albeit narrowly; the requirement for emergency services to reach stranded vehicles within 10 minutes.

This vital measure was designed to prevent collisions and deaths on smart motorways – where stranded vehicles have been found to be sitting ducks on too many occasions. According to data for August 2022 the average response time was 10 minutes and 29 seconds.    

Nick Harris, chief executive of National Highways, commented: “This is not the end of our work and we will continue to deliver further improvements to help ensure people feel safe and confident when using our roads.”

There are currently 400 miles of smart motorways in the country but the Department for Transport (DfT) will not start to convert any more motorways to smart roads until at least 2025, when five years’ worth of safety data for all schemes introduced before 2020 will be available. 

Whether this happens at all is TBC, given new Prime Minister Liz Truss has said she will stop smart motorways, calling them “an experiment that hasn’t worked”. Whether she’s still around to be able to prevent the rollout in 2025 is another debate entirely…

Do you want to see more Smart Motorways? Let us know in the comments below

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