Smart motorways are open – but are they a ‘dangerous distraction’?
Mr Loophole lawyer Nick Freeman has branded smart motorways ‘ridiculously dangerous’ as he calls for 80mph motorway limit
Motoring lawyer Nick Freeman has slammed smart motorways as a ‘dangerous distraction’ – and called for the motorway speed limit to be increased to 80mph.
Cheshire-based Mr Freeman – known as ‘Mr Loophole’ for his ability to get celebrities acquitted on legal technicalities – branded smart motorways ‘ridiculous’.
Smart Motorways – now fully operational on the M60 and M62 in Greater Manchester – use live signs, variable speed limits and using the hard shoulder as an extra lane to control traffic and reduce congestion.
They were developed by Highways England to manage traffic without having to build new lanes.
In Greater Manchester, a £208m smart motorway runs from the M62 between junctions 18 and 20 at Rochdale and the M60 route from junction eight at Sale to 18.
More are lined up for sections of the M62, the M60 plus the M6 and the M56.
But Freeman argues Highways England’s ‘constant fluctuation’ of speed limits between gantries is a bad idea.
He said: “Smart motorways are a dangerous distraction with constant sign changes, a paucity of accurate information, inexplicable speed restrictions on empty stretches of road, and the use of the hard shoulder as a running lane at times of congestion – a ridiculously dangerous idea, which increases the vulnerability of drivers who breakdown before they can reach a refuge area.”
Freeman would also like to see the motorway speed limit raised from 70mph to 80mph.
He added: “It isnt speed which kills, it’s bad driving – something which is largely ignored because of robotic policing.
“The 70mph was established in the 1960s based on the maximum speed of a Ford Anglia. Now many have cars have in-built safety features and can comfortably go faster. Rush hour travellers will not really be affected by any increase in speed limit, because bad congestion typically means an inability to get anywhere close to the existing 70mph limits anyway.”
His views on motorways are part of a ten point ‘safety charter’, in which he also calls for elderly drivers to have compulsory eye and reaction tests every two years.
He also wants to see compulsory special plates for new drivers, and lessons on how to overtake cyclists before the driving test.
Also advocating a total ban on hands-free phone use, Freeman, whose clients have included David Beckham and Paddy McGuiness, has announced his ‘charter’ as the number of people killed on Britain’s roads reaches a five-year high. The number of vehicles on the road has increased by 2.5m during this time.
He also believes lorry drivers should be confined to the nearside lane and cyclists should take proficiency tests and their bikes – which should have licence plates – be put through MOT tests.
Freeman insists he cares about road safety – despite his reputation for getting drivers off the hook.
“I work within the parameters of current legislation”, he said. “But how much better if we could introduce the changes of my proposed charter. It would slash the number of accidents and make all forms of road transport much safer.”
A Highways England spokesperson said: “Smart motorways are good for drivers; they add extra lanes, improve people’s journeys and are as safe as other motorways. A three year study of the latest design has shown that smart motorways are as safe as other motorways.
“We recognise that as well as being safe, drivers want to feel safe and we are making some changes to the design including making emergency areas more visible; introducing systems that detect stationary vehicles; and raising awareness of the need to comply with lane closures. For future schemes, that start construction from 2020 onwards, we will be reducing the maximum spacing between emergency areas from the maximum of 1.5 miles to one mile, where practical.
“All of this is being done to help road users feel more safe.”
Mr Loophole’s ten point road safety charter
- Ban all use of use of hands free mobile phones.
- Reduce drink drive limit from 80 milligrams of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood to 50 milligrams.
- Cameras should automatically flash middle lane hoggers so they are fined and receive penalty points.
- Lorry drivers on three lane motorways should be confined to the nearside line. This would rise to the two inner lanes on four lane motorways.
- A compulsory vision and driving test every two years for motorists over 70.
- Newly qualified drivers should have to wear ‘NQ’ plates for two years after passing their test. If they don’t there should be instant disqualification and a compulsory extended re-test.
- Cyclists need to be identified with number plates, take a proficiency test, their bikes should have a yearly MOT and the wearing of helmets and tabards should also be compulsory.
- Learning how to overtake cyclists should be part of the driving test.
- Reducing use of fluctuating speed on smart motorways. Gantries also need to provide detailed, accurate information such as exactly where a vehicle has broken down in terms of distance and location so motorist can take pre-emptive measures. Smart motorways should act proportionately.
- Speed limit should be raised from 70mph to 80mph on motorways.