Is This Road Smart?
Due to the great number of concerns currently being voiced about Smart Motorways, Grant Shapps ordered a review into them by the Department of Transport. The results of that review are now in and have led to 18 proposed measures which the government aims to bring in, to counteract the dangers of Smart Motorways.

The report says that some driver behaviours are actually safer on Smart Motorways, for example it claims that there are fewer incidences of: tailgating, rapid speed changes, vehicles drifting off the carriageway or speeding.

However some things are worse, as we reported in our last article, for example the frequency of moving vehicles crashing into stationary broken down vehicles. This is because there is not enough warning about the stopped vehicle ahead for oncoming drivers or riders, and there are not enough places for the broken down vehicles to take refuge.

The government says that they need to increase motorway capacity to cope with 23% rise in traffic since 2000. They claim that if they had to widen all the country’s motorways they would cause widespread environmental disruption and great expense. To solve this problem they think that smart motorways are the best option.

After the review there are some action plan proposals to make smart motorways safer. Here are the 18 measures from the strategic roads update, which Shapps and his department are proposing:

* abolishing the confusing “dynamic hard shoulder” smart motorways, where the hard shoulder operates only part-time and is a live running lane the rest of the time

* substantially speeding up the deployment of “stopped vehicle detection” technology across the entire “all lane running” smart motorway network, so stopped vehicles can be detected and the lanes closed more quickly. Highways England is to accelerate its plans and install the technology within the next 36 months, setting a clear public timetable for the first time

* faster attendance by more Highways England traffic officer patrols on smart motorways where the existing spacing between places to stop in an emergency is more than one mile, with the aim of reducing the attendance time from an average of 17 minutes to 10 minutes

* reducing the distance between places to stop in an emergency to three quarters of a mile where feasible so that on future schemes motorists should typically reach one every 45 seconds at 60mph. The maximum spacing will be 1 mile

* installing 10 additional emergency areas on the existing M25 smart motorways on the section of smart motorway with a higher rate of live lane stops and where places to stop in an emergency are furthest apart

* considering a national programme to install more emergency areas where places to stop in an emergency are more than one mile apart

* investigating M6 Bromford viaduct and the M1 at Luton, Sheffield and Wakefield where there is evidence of clusters of incidents. Where an intervention is considered likely to make a difference, we will look to make changes at these locations

* making emergency areas more visible – all emergency areas will have a bright orange road surface, dotted lines on the surfacing showing where to stop, better and more frequent signs on approach and signs inside giving information on what to do in an emergency. These will be installed by the end of spring 2020

* more traffic signs giving the distance to the next place to stop in an emergency, so you will almost always be able to see a sign. Typically, these will be between approximately 330 and 440 yards apart

* more communication with drivers. We recognise that we could do more therefore we are committing to an additional £5 million on national targeted communications campaigns to further increase awareness and understanding of smart motorways, how they work and how to use them confidently

* displaying ‘report of obstruction’ messages automatically on electronic signs, triggered by the stopped vehicle detection system, to warn drivers of a stopped vehicle ahead, this is currently being trialled on the M25 and then a further trial on the M3

* places to stop in an emergency shown on your satnav by working with satnav providers to ensure the locations are shown on the screen, when needed

* making it easier to call for help if broken down by working with car manufacturers to improve awareness of the use of the eCall ‘SOS’ button in newer cars to call for help

* we have changed the law to enable automatic detection of ‘red X’ violations and enforcement using cameras and we will be expanding the upgrade of smart motorway cameras () to identify more of those who currently ignore the ‘red X’. The penalty is 3 points on the driver’s licence and a £100 fine, or the driver can be referred to an awareness course

* an update of the Highway Code to provide more guidance

* closer working with the recovery industry on training and procedures

* reviewing existing emergency areas where the width is less than the current 15 foot wide standard. If feasible and appropriate we will widen to this standard

* a review of the use of red flashing lights to commence immediately. We have listened to the calls for recovery vehicles to be allowed to use red flashing lights. We will commence work immediately on a review

So what do you think - as a motorcyclist are you particularly at risk on these new technologically advanced roads or are you much safer? Do these proposals solve the problems and would they make you fell safe whilst riding on a Smart Motorway?

Posted by Lucy England
for Wemoto News on 12 March 2020 in General News



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