‘You are still at risk’: Smart motorways designed for congestion and not safety, warns AA

Smart motorways guide reveals which lanes to avoid

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Giving evidence to the Transport Select Committee, Mr King said roads were based around “avoiding congestion” instead of safety. He warned drivers were still at risk on smart motorways “no matter” how good the technology was as he called for the introduction of more Emergency Refuge Areas (ERA).

Speaking to the Committee, Mr King, said: “The Safe Systems approach is very important in designing infrastructure.

“What it tries to do is design infrastructure which tries to mitigate the mistakes made by people.”

He added: “Human error might be not having enough fuel so you break down in a live lane, now that is wrong, you should have enough fuel, but in life mistakes are made.

“In a safe system, it would be designed so there are ‘get outs’ if people make errors.

“In fact, the Select Committee actually advocated a Safe System approach in 2008 but it wasn’t adopted by Highways England until 2015.

“So the designs of smart motorways were based around congestion and avoiding congestion and not necessarily on safety. It didn’t take that Safe Systems approach.

“So where I say people have died, people have died because they have stopped in live lanes because there was nowhere to go, there was not an ERA for a mile and a half.

“We cannot have that approach and that’s where all-lane running currently falls down.

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“No matter what the technology, no matter how good the radar technology, the camera technology, no matter how good it is you are still at risk.”

The December 2015 Department for Transport said “adopting the Safe Systems approach” was one of their key priorities for road safety.

In 2015 they said this was “clear in the framework” they have set with Highways England.

However, the Office for Rail and Road found Highways England’s monitoring of the scheme still needed some work.

They said the focus for investment was on reducing journey time and creating new capacity” instead of reducing road safety.

Highways England said they would continue to implement the findings of the progress report and the Government’s 2020 evidence stocktake.

They added the UK has some of the safest roads in the world with motorways the safest type of road in the country.

Data from Highways England showed there were just 431 deaths on the motorway and 24 on all-lane running schemes between 2015 and 2019.

This is compared to just over 7,500 deaths on all of England’s roads over four years.

A statement to Express.co.uk said: “Our key objective has always been that any stretch of road that is converted to a smart motorway is at least as safe as it was before conversion, and in terms of fatality rates, smart motorways are the safest roads in the country.

“We recently committed to a raft of measures to further boost safety, including ensuring every new all lane running motorway opens with technology in place to spot stopped vehicles.

“We have submitted evidence to the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry where issues related to smart motorways are being debated, and will be appearing before the committee to respond to the members’ questions.”

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