ARE 'SMART' MOTORWAYS REALLY SAFER?
NEW 'SMART' MOTORWAYS ARE UNDER REVIEW AFTER AN INCREASE IN ACCIDENTS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT HOW THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY WILL AFFECT MOTORCYCLISTS?
There has been a lot of controversy about so called 'smart' motorways of late, and a growing unease from the driving and motorcycle-riding public. The government has been steadily, inexorably, rolling them out across the country in an attempt to cope with the perhaps unfeasibly high and ever-increasing volume of traffic on British roads. But are they actually safe enough?
Like all technological advances, the theory is great – that the smart motorway will ease traffic congestion and aid traffic flow by watching us as we drive, spotting accidents and using variable speed limits according to volume of traffic etc to keep everything rolling along smoothly. In the event of an accident the smart motorway should close the lane in which the accident has happened to protect the riders or drivers from other motorway traffic. Well that's fine as long as it is working! However what happens when the ever watchful A.I. eye fails to spot a breakdown or a crash and therefore fails to close the lane to traffic in the event of a stopped car or motorcycle, then disaster will pretty inevitably follow.
The BBC's recent Panorama documentary revealed that 38 people died in the last 5 years in crashes on smart motorways and 1,485 near-misses were recorded after the so called 'upgrade' from old-school to smart motorways – a massive increase from the 72 incidents recorded before the technology was installed and the hard shoulder activated.
A Rock And A Hard Shoulder
Perhaps the most frightening part of the roll-out for most riders and drivers is that, in order to increase the volume of traffic that the road can take, the hard shoulder is being converted to a live lane in many instances, leaving nowhere for vehicles to pull over in the event of an emergency. Most of the deaths which have occurred have been because oncoming traffic wasn't warned about an accident up ahead and failed to stop. The lack of the safe haven of the hard shoulder, left any stricken vehicles with nowhere safe to go – leaving them sitting ducks in the middle of a fast moving motorway. This is a terrifying thought for anyone who has ever broken down on a motorway!
After all the adverse publicity and seeing the actual accident figures, Grant Shapps has ordered an urgent review into the safety of smart motorways and halted work for the time being until the results of the enquiry are in. It is tragic that so many people have had to be victims of the smart motorway roll out before it has been taken seriously.
Is this something you have thought about much as a motorcyclist or driver? Do you have any personal experience of smart motorways, good or bad, or any thoughts about them? Are they a great innovation and the shape of things to come, or a massive accident waiting to happen? We'd love to hear your views.
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