Six in 10 drivers believe that all-lane-running ‘smart’ motorways should be scrapped entirely with the hard shoulder reinstalled, a new report has shown.
The RAC’s Report on Motoring 2021 questioned 2,652 drivers about the sections of smart motorways which do without a hard shoulder, with only a quarter of respondents supporting the continuation of the type of highway. Government policy is to increase the number of refuge areas on these roads while adding extra technology to detect stationary vehicles.
However, some 63 per cent of those spoken to do not believe that these new measures make up for the lack of hard shoulder and that variable speed limits, closed-lane signs, SOS emergency refuge areas every 1.6 miles and stationary vehicle-detecting technology are little compensation.
The RAC’s research also shows a marked increase in safety concerns about smart motorways, with 24 per cent of drivers listing this as one of their top concerns when driving – a rise on the 16 per cent who admitted this last year. Drivers over the age of 65 expressed the most amount of concern with this issue, with 44 per cent putting it as their top worry.
However, less than half of drivers who have driven on all-lane stretches of motorway feel safe on them, while 30 per cent don’t feel very safe and a quarter admit to feeling ‘very unsafe’.
More than 63 per cent of drivers think that the typical distance between refuge areas of 1.6 miles is too much, rising from 55 per cent who thought the same in 2019. The RAC’s research has found that despite National Highways’ ‘Go Left’ campaign, less than half of drivers say that they would know what to do if they had a breakdown while travelling in a live lane.
Nicholas Lyes, RAC head of roads policy, said: “Our research reveals the enormous strength of feeling among drivers of all ages about the safety of all-lane-running smart motorways. But while there’s support for scrapping these motorways across all age groups, it’s highest among those aged 45 and over, with 73% wanting to see the end of these schemes.
“We’ve always had safety concerns about all-lane-running motorways and have raised these by giving evidence to two separate Transport Committee inquiries. While the Government published its 18-point action plan in 2020, the RAC has continued to push for new safety features to be introduced as quickly as possible.
“Although much of the plan is on track and the installation of crucial stopped vehicle detection technology is now due to be completed ahead of schedule, it seems the only thing that will truly satisfy most drivers is the reinstatement of the hard shoulder.”