Smart motorways putting drivers at risk
Smart motorways have put thousands of Brits at risk by removing the hard shoulder, Highways England have admitted.
Safety experts and MPs are now calling for the controversial roads to be scrapped as drivers are being left stranded in dangerous situations on the side of the road.
Recent figures have revealed more than 19,000 motorists have broken down in a live lane over the past two years, a rate of 26 drivers a day.
The data was obtained from a letter from Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan to MPs sitting on the transport committee.
Earlier this year, the committee wrote to the governing body raising its concerns about the safety of smart motorways across the country.
It comes after four people were killed on a stretch of the M1 in just ten months.
All of the deadly crashes happened after motorists failed to reach a safe lay-by area known as an Emergency Refuge Area, which are currently 1.5 miles apart.
Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, were killed when a lorry hit them after they had pulled over to exchange contact details.
Claire, the widow of Mr Mercer, is now launching legal action against Highways England, saying it failed to provide her husband with a safe zone.
Smart motorways use technology as a way of reducing congestion and ease the flow of traffic.
The methods include using the hard shoulder as an active traffic lane.
The letter also revealed Highways England plans on reducing the maximum distance between emergency areas to one mile, with work expected to start next year.
Edmund King, president at the AA, said: “It is horrific that 19,316 drivers have suffered the horror of breaking down in a live lane on a ‘smart’ motorway over a two year period due to the loss of the hard shoulder and an insufficient number of emergency lay-bys.
“This is simply unacceptable and the five deaths on one All Lane Running section of the M1 prove that urgent action is needed.
“We support the improved visibility and signing of emergency refuge areas but are concerned only half have been retrofitted with a target completion date of Spring 2020.
“”We have consistently said that emergency refuge areas need to be closer together.
“We raised this three years ago while the M4 was in the planning stages but were advised it would cost too much to redesign.”
A spokesperson for Highways England said: “Smart motorways include more features than conventional motorways to further enhance safety, and both are significantly safer for drivers than other roads; the evidence shows that where all lane running has been introduced there have been fewer collisions, and congestion has reduced despite an increased number of vehicles using them.