Safety concerns prevent AA crews stopping on smart motorways
Smart motorway networks are considered so dangerous AA breakdown crews are not allowed to stop on the roads to help stricken motorists.
AA crews are instructed to drive to a safer location and wait for a car to be towed by Highways England crews according to a former staff member. The revelation comes after data revealed nine people were killed in accidents across the smart motorway network last year.
Speaking to the BBC, former AA patrolman of the year Tony Rich revealed how several road users are forced to wait up to 17 minutes for help.
He said: “We’ll contact the customer to say ‘we can’t stop where you are’.
“We will contact Highways England, go to a safe area and wait for the vehicle to be delivered.”
An AA spokesperson told Express.co.uk several recovery groups have signed up to a safety group Survive who has issued advice against recovering cars on smart motorway networks.
Recovery teams are told to not attempt to stop or provide assistance on smart motorways if a traffic officer is not in attendance or a safe area has not been created.
Edmund King, AA President said: “Being stuck in a live lane is incredibly dangerous. The official advice is keep your seat belt and hazard lights on and dial 999.
“It is not safe for breakdown organisations to recover vehicles unless the lane is closed and has a physical presence sat behind the casualty vehicle. This is either the Police with blue flashing lights or Highways England Traffic Officers with red flashing lights.
“This highlights the severity of breaking down in a live lane and further emphasises our calls for double the number of Emergency Refuge Areas. Providing drivers with more places of relative safety would reduce the risk of vehicles being stuck in a lane of fast moving traffic.”
Mr Rich also said many cars often breakdown out of sight of sophisticated cameras used to monitor the road for issues which can lead to delays.
He even revealed many of the smart motorway cameras were not working at all.
The revelation comes a day after document published by The Sunday Times confirmed camera technology used to detect broken down vehicles could stop working in moderate to heavy traffic.
In leaked documents, the system’s chief engineer, Mike Wilson, said the dense traffic can make it difficult to detect stopped vehicles.
The revelation means motorists could be stuck on the side of live motorway lanes in a major safety hazard.
Eight-year old schoolboy Dev Naran was killed when a lorry hit his family members vehicle after breaking down on a live smart motorway lane.
The danger saw four people killed on a stretch of smart motorway on the M1 in just ten months.
In a letter leaked to the Sunday Telegraph, police and crime commissioner Alan Billings said officers repeatedly warned how the M1 smart motorway plans would put lives at risk.
Mr Billings said his team had raised serious concerns about losing the hard shoulder on the road and said he was not convinced the plans would make the road any safer.
The roads have no hard shoulder and motorists with car issues are forced to drive to an Emergency Refuge Area which can be spaced over one mile apart.
Data from Highways England has shown over 19,000 cars have stopped on a live lane over the past two years alone.
The statistics equate to an average of 26 breakdowns on the roads each day in a major concern for road users.
The risks pushed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to admit people were dying on the roads and announce a Department for Transport review into the roads.
The conclusions into the review is expected in the coming weeks although Highways England boss Jim O’Sullivan has already announced some changes to the networks.
Just months ago, Mr O’Sullivan confirmed Highways England would not be building any more all-lane active running schemes after branding the road too confusing.
However, Highways England have previously said evidence shows all-lane running schemes have reduced casualty rates by more than 25 percent.
In a previous statement, Highways England said all smart motorway roads have incident detection and automatic signalling systems in place.
They added detection for stopped vehicles would be incorporated in all future smart motorway schemes as part of the design.
However, they said stopped vehicle detection was just part of several safety features in the roads.
They added the road would not be deemed unsafe if the technology was not installed in the road.