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The roll-out and safety of Smart Motorways (2021)

Smart Motorways bring significant benefits, as they have been designed and implemented to address recurrent congestion on heavily used sections of motorway.

The use of technology and conversion of the hard shoulder to a running lane, either permanently or dynamically, provides additional capacity to reduce congestion levels without the significant cost and disruption of building an extra lane.

They are a cost-effective and rapid method of providing much-needed capacity.

Analysis of safety and performance data on implemented Smart Motorway schemes has shown overall improvements in safety.

Nevertheless, there is now a more frequent hazard of the stopped vehicle in a live lane, which has understandably attracted adverse publicity compared to the perceived “safety” of the hard shoulder.

The IET’s view is that firstly, safety can be improved by reducing the number of times vehicles stop on motorways and then improving how they are detected, and other drivers then warned and instructed.

In order to achieve this we believe that the Government should:

  • Think users: through more training and increasing vehicle roadworthiness.
  • Make use of what is there already: using sat nav for in-vehicle messaging and services such as Waze, to alert drivers.
  • Safeguard the future: through learning lessons from other transport modes.