Sunak’s smart motorways U-turn ‘surprising’ – as drivers unconvinced

How do smart motorways work?

Rishi Sunak’s “surprising” U-turn over smart motorways is driven, at least in part, by a need to save money, a legal expert has claimed. Meanwhile the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has welcomed the decision, outlining how it “made sense” given the public antipathy.

A smart motorway is a section of road which utilises technology, including variable speed limits, to regulate traffic flow and ease congestion.

However, they faced significant criticism in recent years, largely as a result of a number of high-profile fatal accidents – for example, a crash on the M1 in Yorkshire which resulted in the deaths of pensioners Derek Jacobs and Charles Scripps.

An inquest held in April heard the tragedy could have been prevented if a hard shoulder had been in use. The section of the M1 in question did not have one in operation, in accordance with the smart motorway technology in use.

The Government’s move was confirmed on April 15, as Mr Sunak said: “All drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country.

“That’s why last year I pledged to stop the building of all new smart motorways, and today I’m making good on that promise.

“Many people across the country rely on driving to get to work, to take their children to school and go about their daily lives and I want them to be able to do so with full confidence that the roads they drive on are safe.”

Referring to the Smart Motorways Stocktake document published last year, Joshua Hughes, Partner and Head of the Complex Injury Team at law firm Bolt Burdon Kemp, said: “Having read the content of the National Highway’s progress reports on smart motorways in recent years, it is somewhat surprising to see the extent of the climbdown.

“This is particularly so given the intention to pause new construction, whilst gathering sufficient data to assess how safe they are.

“However, as conceded by the Government, the scrapping of all new smart motorway construction is at least in part driven by ‘financial pressures’.”

Mr Hughes continued: “Cost aside, and despite assurances about implementing better safety technology sooner, the force of discontent amongst motorway users around the safety of smart motorways has proven determinative – at least for now.”

“Ultimately, drivers remain unpersuaded by National Highways data that would suggest smart motorways are safer than conventional ones.”

There was currently no “definitive data” determining whether smart motorways were more dangerous than conventional ones, Mr Hughes added.

However, he stressed: “People lack confidence in them because collisions and fatalities have occurred where vehicles have been stranded in a live-lane.

“Although smart motorways are legally workable, they are not the answer in their current form if they are (or perceived to be) putting people’s lives at greater risk.

“Before further expansion, we need to see better evidence determining their long-term safety and safety improvements such as “stopped vehicle detection” technology.”

Don’t miss…
Scrapping of ‘dangerous’ smart motorways gains overwhelming support[LATEST]
Nothing is smart about politicians’ blind trust in tech[LATEST]
New smart motorways banned but campaigners call for more changes[LATEST]

According to last year’s report, there were slightly fewer personal injury accidents on conventional motorways – 4.74 per hundred million vehicle miles (HMVM) – than on the three types of smart motorway – All Lane Running (ALR) (5.38), Discretionary Hard Shoulder (DHS) (4.20) or controlled (5.74).

However, A-Roads are significantly more dangerously, with 11.45 personal injuries accidents per HMVM.

Rebecca Guy, RoSPA’s Road Safety Manager, told “At RoSPA, we have been campaigning for safer smart motorways since they began, working with the Government and the Transport Committee to plan and execute the retrofitting of emergency refuge areas.

“We also know that smart motorways are largely unpopular with UK road users, and that inflation is causing costs to rise exponentially.

“Taking all this into account, it makes sense that this decision has been made by the Government and we would like to thank them for listening to stakeholder views and allowing us to work alongside them.”

RoSPA called for some of the money from not building smart motorways to be reinvested in the UK’s network of roads, especially filling in potholes, which it said pose a direct threat to cyclists and motorcyclists alike.”

Source: Read Full Article