Removing hard shoulders to make ‘smart motorways’ puts drivers at risk
Drivers who break down on smart motorways are left in their cars for more than an hour because just 20 per cent of the network is covered by technology to instantly close a lane.
Motorists who break down on motorways without a hard shoulder are supposed to be spotted by new radar technology or a CCTV operator.
A new report revealed an operator takes an average of 20 minutes to spot a breakdown and close the lane compared to an official target of three minutes, The Times reports.
Radar technology, which spots a driver who has broken down and instantly closes the lane, is only used on two parts of London’s M25.
This means 80 per cent of the network is left to CCTV operators to spot broken down traffic and close lanes.
Smart motorways without hard-shoulders are found on parts of the London to Leeds M1, the M5 through Bristol and the M4 to Wales, which have emergency by-lanes.
When a driver breaks down on a smart motorway without a hard shoulder, a red ‘X’ is displayed and that lane is then closed for the vehicle to be recovered.
One CCTV operator did not notice a broken down vehicle on a smart motorway and it was more than an hour before the lane closed.
A Highways England spokeswoman told The Times: ‘Our trials on the M25 have shown that a stopped vehicle detection system can be a valuable extra tool to help spot incidents more quickly, and the technology is being designed into all the smart motorway projects that we start constructing from next year.’