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Smart Motorways in the UK

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Majority of drivers feel unsafe on smart motorways

As the Government progresses with smart motorway development, new polling from the Major Trauma Group finds less than a quarter of British adults feel safe travelling on motorways without a hard shoulder.

78 percent of British adults surveyed somewhat or strongly agreed that all smart motorways should include a hard shoulder, or more frequent emergency refuge areas. Currently, smart motorways use traffic management systems such as implementing variable speed limits and using the hard shoulder either permanently or temporarily as an additional lane to reduce congestion.

Younger people aged 16-24 are far more likely to feel safe on a motorway without a hard shoulder compared to adults aged over 55 (39 percent compared to under 10 percent). Men are also more likely to feel safe travelling on a smart motorway without a hard shoulder than women (29 percent of men strongly or somewhat agreed they feel safe versus 19 percent of women).

Smart motorways use technology to constantly monitor roads and adjust lane openings and speed limits to reduce congestion and shut down lanes in the event of an accident. The Government has committed to not opening any smart motorways without stopped car detection in place, however, there have still been cases of fatal accidents on these roads, with risk in particular coming from hitting stationary vehicles from behind.

The areas in England where people are most likely to strongly or somewhat agree that all smart motorways should include a hard shoulder or more frequent emergency refuges are the South West (84 percent), the East of England (81 percent), the South East and the North East (both 80 percent). The South East currently has the most smart motorways in England, despite less than 20 percent of drivers in the region somewhat or strongly agreeing that they feel safe travelling on smart motorways without a hard shoulder.

Trevor Sterling, Chair of the Major Trauma Group said:

“At the Major Trauma Group, we are passionate about ensuring our roads are as safe as possible, and it is clear that the general public does not feel safe on smart motorways in their current forms where hard shoulders or easy to access refuge areas are limited.“Whilst it is important to address future challenges of transportation links, this cannot come at the expense of safety or public confidence in using our roads. We are calling for the Government to proceed with caution, and implement robust education measures to keep people safe.”


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