Susanna Reid reveals she feels ‘nervous’ on smart motorways
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In January, the Government paused the rollout of smart motorways until five years’ worth of safety data is available after numerous complaints that the roads were making driving more dangerous, especially in the event of a breakdown. A recent report from the Office for Rail and Road found that safety technology on smart motorways is failing to work properly, with an estimated one in three broken-down vehicles missed.
It also revealed that three-quarters of broken-down vehicles in England turned out to be false alerts, with the West Midlands seeing five of every six alerts being incorrect.
The Chief Executive of the ORR said National Highways needs to “urgently improve its performance” in regard to smart motorways.
Duncan Smith, operations director for National Highways, said smart motorways provide a level of assurance to him as a motorist that other roads don’t.
Despite the support from National Highways, many drivers have called for the end of smart motorways and the return to “traditional” motorways with a hard shoulder.
Nick Freeman – who is known as “Mr Loophole” for his ability to secure acquittals for A-List clients based on legal technicalities – says it was “unfathomable” for a driver to say they feel safer breaking down on a smart motorway than a traditional motorway.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mr Freeman, whose clients include Jeremy Clarkson, David Beckham and Frank Lampard, questioned: “How can it be safer?
“When a driver breaks down on the live lane of a smart motorway, that lane, in effect, has to become a hard shoulder, which can take a number of minutes.
“However an existing hard shoulder is permanent, it already has the status as a place of relative safety. So what Duncan Smith says is just madness.
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“And if he really believes what he says, then I challenge him to feign a breakdown in the live lane of a smart motorway – and see how it feels.”
During the run-up to the Conservative leadership elections, both candidates, Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, vowed to ban smart motorways.
The eventual winner, Liz Truss, said the “smart motorways experiment hasn’t worked”, reiterating her support for a ban earlier this year.
Mr Sunak’s camp described him as the “most pro-driver chancellor in history”, adding that he would “stop the war on motorists once and for all”.
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Following the political turmoil in recent months, neither Liz Truss nor Rishi Sunak has hinted at following through with their plans to scrap smart motorways.
More recently, the new Transport Secretary Mark Harper said: “If you look at the data collected so far, that would suggest they are safe.”
Mr Freeman, who has been a long-time campaigner against smart motorways, says it is time for Duncan Smith and Mark Harper to use action snot words if they are to convince an anxious public of the safety of smart motorways.
He continued, claiming: “Since Rishi Sunak has not [yet] acted on his pledge for a ‘comprehensive ban’ on new smart motorways and since his transport minister has every confidence in these roads, then Mr Harper needs to prove this.
“And given his most recent interview, Mr Smith has to do this as well.
“So I would like to see both men travel in a car which is forced to stop on a smart motorway – without prior warning – where the hard shoulder has been removed and turned into a live lane.
“Since they both have so much confidence in the technology and the ability to be rescued swiftly then I don’t see why they wouldn’t take up such a challenge.
“The reaction time of both breakdown operatives or the police, as well as other drivers, will give a very clear indication of whether smart motorways are as safe as these men would have us believe.”
Mr Freeman concluded by claiming the idea that smart motorways are safe, as a “staggering and misconceived view”.
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