It’s been announced that the government has put a stop to all their plans for new ‘All Lane Running’ (ALR) smart motorways until more technology becomes available to detect breakdowns as they happen.
Radar camera tech will level up the safety of the motorways as stopped and broken-down vehicles will be recognised much more quickly and allow the affected lanes to be closed off in real time. It’s thought that this will mean fewer accidents on the roads.
Traditional motorways have always benefited from the added safety provided by the hard shoulder lane. However, with more and more drivers qualifying each year, and the number of motorists on the roads skyrocketing, the need for more space for those travelling on motorways has also increased.
That’s why ALR smart motorways seemed like the perfect solution. It meant that the capacity of the nation’s roads increased by a quarter, in theory, without having to invest in major infrastructure projects that would involve the building of brand new, bigger motorways, or adding extra lanes to the UK’s existing roads.
Smart motorways are not without their drawbacks though. Safety is the major and primary concern for frequent motorway travellers, with those that use them feeling less safe than on a traditional motorway. Drivers fear that they may get stuck and be involved in an accident if they have an issue with their vehicle that means they have to stop or if they break down too far away from a junction or SOS area.
Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, made the pledge to help cut down on smart motorway accident fears following the release of a report from Highways England.
The report detailed the progress that has been made so far in increasing the safety measures on ALR motorways, and how best to speed up further improvements as the roads continue to be in operation.
Grant Shapps said: “Despite the data showing that fatalities are less likely on All Lane Running motorways than on conventional ones, this doesn’t mean all drivers necessarily feel safe on them.
“That is why I tasked Highways England last year with delivering an action plan to raise the bar on safety measures even higher. This progress report shows the extensive work already carried out, but we want to do more.
“So-called smart motorways started to be built in 2001 and I am determined to ensure that technology and exacting standards are in place.”
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes welcomed the Government’s new plan to increase safety but said: “We are concerned that drivers will still need to wait up to 18 months before all cameras are enforcing ‘red X’ lane closed signs”.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment that no smart motorway will open without the important stopped vehicle detection technology as this should improve safety significantly.
“Enforcement is vital in getting all drivers to obey these signs as anyone who disregards them is at a much greater risk of being in collision with a stranded vehicle.
“With the Government seemingly committed to all lane running smart motorways, it is imperative they’re made as safe as possible by using all the technology and highway design features at their disposal.”
It’s been reported that Highway Code will be updated later this year ahead of schedule to offer motorists more support and guidance on how to use smart motorways safely.