Smart motorways: AA President reacts to suspension of rollout
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Smart motorways have come under criticism following fatal crashes in recent years due to safety systems failing to close lanes for broken down vehicles. The Office of Rail and Road recently confirming the radar-based safety system was not meeting performance targets across the country.
As part of its latest market study, What Car? surveyed 1,698 motorists on what should be the policy priorities for Government and local authorities in 2023.
Over a third (37.3 percent) wanted smart motorways scrapped, compared to just 3.6 percent who wanted existing projects completed.
Completing smart motorway projects received the lowest amount of votes out of all nine options available.
Motorists told What Car? the biggest priority for 2023 should be filling up potholes (58.9 percent), followed by improving the country’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure (40.8 percent).
Previous research found local authorities across Britain paid out more than £12million in compensation to motorists between 2018 and 2021 for damage caused by poor road surfaces and potholes.
A quarter of respondents also wanted clarification this year on how fuel duty will be replaced as more electric vehicles enter the market.
Steve Huntingford, editor of What Car?, commented on how the issues affecting drivers reflect the driving reality of today and what needs to be done.
He said: “Smart motorways have a long way in convincing many drivers, with our research highlighting just how negative the public mood is towards the technology.
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“Poor road surfaces and a lack of charging infrastructure for electric drivers, as well as continuing question marks on how things like fuel duty will be replaced in the future, should all be at the top of the checklist for policymakers.”
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 rollout of smart motorways was paused in January last year, with the Government saying it needed five years’ worth of safety data to be available following complaints.
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At the start of 2021, there were 369 miles of smart motorways in England, including 168 miles without a hard shoulder.
National Highways are seeking to make improvements to Stopped Vehicle Detection (SVD) technology to achieve the required performance levels by the end of June 2023.
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC, called on National Highways to “get on top of teething problems” to protect drivers.
He added: “Breaking down in a live lane is terrifying enough but drivers must have confidence that the infrastructure is detecting them quickly so authorities can immediately close the lane.
“We also urge police forces to use the equipment provided to enforce ‘red X’ closed-lane signs as we think that this will reduce those flouting the law and putting drivers and roadside workers in unnecessary danger.
“But when all is said and done, it remains to be seen whether these changes result in drivers feeling any more confident on motorways where the hard shoulder has been replaced with a running lane.”
Research conducted in 2022 found that 70 percent of drivers want to see “all lane running” smart motorways scrapped.
This would be in favour of schemes where a hard shoulder can be opened and closed according to how much traffic there is.
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