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Drivers express concerns over safety on “smart” motorways

Following the rolling out of sections of smart motorways on the M25 and M6, the IAM’s poll found that 71% of drivers said they would feel less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder than a motorway with one.

One of the main concerns of respondents is the plan to increase the distance between safety refuges with 48% of respondents believing that safety refuges should be no more than 500 yards (0.45km) apart. 

40% of respondents are sceptical that new monitoring systems on SMART motorways, such as electronic signs, can protect them in the event of stopping in a running lane.

Other survey findings include: 

  • 67% of respondents said they haven’t seen any publicity about SMART motorways.
  • A third of respondents (32%) would support the legalising of undertaking on SMART motorways.
  • 42% believe SMART motorways have reduced congestion and 43% of respondents said it has improved their journey times.

IAM chief executive Simon Best said: ‘SMART motorways are being rolled out across England but our survey shows that drivers want more reassurance and information on how safe they will be and how to use them. The IAM has been supportive of hard shoulder running but we have always said that the Highways Agency must be quick to learn and implement any real-world lessons as more schemes come into use.’

The IAM offers some guidance on using SMART motorways:

  • Pay attention to the overhead gantries as they provide information on traffic conditions and lane access for the road ahead. The six signals are:
  • A red cross without flashing beacons. The hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency or breakdown.
  • A speed limit inside a red circle.  It is absolutely mandatory and may have cameras enforcing it.
  • A blank signal. Usual motorway rules apply.
  • A white arrow with flashing beacons. This applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to.
  • A red cross with flashing beacons. You should not continue to use the lane.
  • A national speed limit sign is shown. The national speed limit, 70mph maximum, applies to all lanes apart from the hard shoulder. 
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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.