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Are Smart Motorways Confusing for Drivers

Article by: maft
Date: 25 Oct 2019

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is to review the safety of smart motorways after allegations that they are too confusing for drivers. In the most simplistic terms smart motorways are fairly easy to understand: you have a speed limit of 70mph unless the signs say otherwise. The issues apparently arise over the use of the hard shoulder. On some smart motorways the hard shoulder is always closed and only for emergency use but, during congestion, smart motorway signs may state that the hard should is open for all. On other smart motorways there is no hard shoulder as such with a small orange layby every half a mile or so for emergency use - the smart motorways signs can, however, close the inside lane if needed. All it takes is to look at the signs to see which lanes are open and what the speed limit is - it's not that confusing and we would always recommend being alert to your surroundings when driving.

From a personal point of view, while I am driving on the smart motorways without the hard shoulder I often worry about how safe it would be to stop in the event of a breakdown when you are essentially stopping in an active lane of traffic. While I keep an eye on my surroundings when driving I can only assume, judging by the number of near misses I've seen while driving, that not everyone does... It will be interesting to see the results of the upcoming review and whether they somehow decide that more speed cameras would help...!

Source: BBC News

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Posted by arfurdent on Fri Oct 25, 2019 11:45 am Reply with quote

when you have lorry drivers watching a DVD and relying on radar you are at serious risk without a hard shoulder. They even collide with vehicles on a real hard shoulder

Posted by Kremmen on Fri Oct 25, 2019 4:43 pm Reply with quote

I'll second that.

Smart motorways are a big fatal mistake IMO

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Posted by marksfish on Sun Oct 27, 2019 3:04 pm Reply with quote

The M40 seems to have been the exception as that is the one they trialled and it has always seemed to run well for me. The M1 however had a serious incident when first opened with a coach not seeing the broken down vehicle in a closed lane and colliding. I believe the M62 has also had its fair share of incidents around J27 with people no paying attention to lanes being open/ closed. I don't like the idea of no hard shoulder, and we seem to be the only country that has decided it is a good idea.

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Posted by M8TJT on Sun Oct 27, 2019 4:24 pm Reply with quote

Surely you really mean that we are the only country with people in charge of this sort of thing stupid enough to think it's a good idea.

Posted by Kremmen on Sun Oct 27, 2019 5:20 pm Reply with quote

... and when these incidents do occur the emergency services can't get there by road.

Utter madness in my book

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Garmin 2599 LMT-D (Indoor test rig)
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Posted by marksfish on Sun Oct 27, 2019 5:24 pm Reply with quote

Indeed. There was a bad accident M1 (N) last week. The traffic was 6 mile queuing and I saw 2 fire engines and an ambulance trying their best to get past. Okay, so that bit of motorway isn't "smart" yet, but the hard shoulder was closed off and occupied by road workers and their equipment.

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Posted by Allan_whoops on Mon Oct 28, 2019 6:23 am Reply with quote

Quite a few independent recovery companies refuse to attend breakdowns on the M25 where there is no hard shoulder due to the safety of their employees.

Posted by BovGregg on Fri Nov 01, 2019 8:39 am Reply with quote

so what is the law on undertaking? I get cars undertaking me what ever lane I am in. This seems to happen more on smart motorways with 4 lanes.Very dangerous.

Posted by modelman093 on Fri Nov 01, 2019 8:40 am Reply with quote

Hard shoulder, what hard shoulder? - utter madness!

Posted by M8TJT on Fri Nov 01, 2019 8:41 am Reply with quote

BovGregg Wrote:
so what is the law on undertaking?
Should you really be driving if you don't know? Rolling Eyes Very Happy

Posted by DJ_Chalky on Fri Nov 01, 2019 8:44 am Reply with quote

The big issue that I see very frequently, using a no Hard Shoulder section of the M1 every day is that very often a vehicle breaks down in Lane 1 and Highways England have not noticed and therefore haven't closed the lane meaning vehicles are having to swerve at the last second.

I have phoned HE on several occasions and they know nothing about it and can't see it.

In my experience, older Smart Motorways with Hard Shoulder running are safer and seem to have a lot more cameras. Permanent no Hard Shoulder Smart Motorways seem to have a lot fewer cameras and HE are a lot slower to react because they have low visibility and rely on people calling in which is dangerous.

It wouldn't surprise me if it turns out that the latest accident on the M1 was due to Lane 1 not being closed at all.

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