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Smart motorways to be made safer

George Roberts

An action plan is to be put in place to make smart motorways safer following analysis by the Government.

The Department for Transport announced on Thursday, March 12, that an 18-point plan will be delivered to make the new motorways ‘as safe as possible’.

Part of this plan is the abolishment of ‘dynamic hard shoulder’ motorways, where the hard shoulder becomes an active lane during busy periods.

All lanes running motorways, which do not have a hard shoulder, will continue to be built. The M4 is being converted into an all lanes running motorway.

Also as part of the plan, emergency lay-bys will be installed every three-quarters of a mile ‘where feasible’ on motorways where construction is yet to begin, and at a maximum of one mile apart.

On existing smart motorways these lay-bys are up to 1.6 miles apart.

The Government’s analysis found there was a greater risk of crashing into a stationary vehicle on a smart motorway.

Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “I’ve been greatly concerned by a number of deaths on smart motorways, and moved by the accounts of families who’ve lost loved ones in these tragic incidents.

“I commissioned an urgent stocktake of smart motorways to provide a clearer picture of their safety and make recommendations on next steps.

“Overall, evidence shows that in most ways smart motorways are as safe as or safer than conventional ones.

“But I am clear that there is more we can do to raise the bar on smart motorway safety.”

The action plan also focuses on getting drivers who break down help faster, with a ‘stopped vehicle detection’ radar-based system that detects cars that have broken down in live lanes to be installed fully within 36 months.

This system will detect breakdowns within 20 seconds, meaning the lanes can be closed down more quickly.

The Government is also committing £5million to targetted communications campaigns to increase driver awareness of what the change to smart motorways means.

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