Following concerns about driver safety in October 2019, the Government announced a review of SMART motorways. The findings of this review and the actions the government intends to take have now been published.
The term SMART motorway covers three types of road:
Controlled Motorways – like conventional motorways, these have a permanent hard shoulder but with added variable speed limits and overhead electronic signs.
All Lane Running Motorways – like controlled motorways, but the hard shoulder is converted to a permanent running lane with emergency stopping areas.
Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running Motorways – like controlled motorways, but the hard shoulder is sometimes used as a permanent running lane, again with emergency stopping areas
The review compared the relative safety of the different types of SMART motorways with conventional motorways, looking at incidents, casualties and fatalities. Overall the review found that in most ways, smart motorways are as safe as, or safer than, conventional motorways, but not in every way.
Some of the new actions the Government has announced to improve safety on SMART motorways include:
- Abolishing the Dynamic Hard Shoulder type of motorway and replacing them with All Lane Running motorways by the end of March 2025, in order to reduce driver confusion.
- Speeding up the roll-out of ‘stopped vehicle detection systems’, currently in use on two sections of the M25, to all current SMART motorways within 36 months.
- Increasing traffic officer patrols on SMART motorways.
- Where practical, providing emergency stopping areas every ¾ miles, making these areas more visible with increased signage. Where practical, increase the width of narrower existing emergency areas to the current 15-foot standard (this compares with 11-foot for a traditional hard shoulder).
- Providing additional information for drivers, including updating the highway code.
Full details of the review and the Government’s proposed actions can be found on the GOV.UK website at: https://www.gov.uk/transport/smart-motorways