In order to further complicate our driving lives we no longer just have so-called ‘smart’ motorways, we now have three types and it pays to know what’s what. Smart motorways are sections of routes designed to manage traffic flow with the idea of avoiding congestion. Obviously road safety is at the heart of it and that makes sense but the systems do confuse some motorists who worry about the use of the hard shoulder at busy times (thus losing the breakdown refuge of that lane) and deeply suspect the use of variable speed limits.
More Than One System
Currently (for who knows what the future might bring) there are three different variations of smart motorway routes in use across parts of the UK. They are ‘All Lane Running’ (ALR) schemes, ‘controlled’ motorway schemes and ‘dynamic hard shoulder running’ schemes.
ALR schemes completely remove the hard shoulder, turning it into a regular lane like the other three. This loss of a vital breakdown area concerns drivers. In use, the lane will only be closed to traffic if there has been some form of incident at which point a large red ‘X’ will appear on the overhead gantries and the stricken motor has to stay in that lane and everyone else move out. This is a worry to drivers because not all accidents occur adjacent to signage. Until one of many cameras has picked up the incident and closed the lane and nearby traffic has passed, the passengers are vulnerable.
That said, smart motorways have demonstrated a significant reduction in accident rates so maybe there is something in it after all. We learn that since 2006 smart motorways have improved journey reliability by twenty-two percent. Further, personal injury accidents have been reduced by more than half and when accidents have occurred the severity was lower with zero fatalities and fewer serious injuries. That’s hard to argue with.
Controlled motorways enforce three or more lanes with variable speed limits controlled by gantry signage; they still have the emergency hard shoulder. These are speed camera hot spots. Dynamic hard shoulder running schemes meanwhile, use the hard shoulder during busy periods.
Again, cameras and gantries are in control. Across the smart motorway provisions, where hard shoulders are in use, clearly marked refuge areas are designated but accidents, by their very nature, don’t follow any sort of logic and won’t necessarily happen adjacent to a safe area.
Are Smart Motorways Safe?
What troubles motorists with the smart motorway idea is the complexity of it; drivers have enough to do concentrating on speed, distance, sensible use of lanes and the sometimes dubious actions of others. Because of this some otherwise perfectly innocent motorists fall foul of the cameras through confusion, not fault. Indeed, some members of parliament and breakdown services have expressed the same safety concerns that removing the hard shoulder puts drivers who breakdown at risk. There’s no going back however and this will be increasingly our driving future so we, the general motoring public, will jolly well have to get used to it, so keep those eyes peeled!
Of course, it also falls to car owners to make sure their vehicles are as safe as possible which is why here at eCars247 every car in our stock undergoes a full AA inspection
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