Safer smart motorways welcomed by transport sector

4 May 2021

The Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England have announced that every new All Lane Running (ALR) motorway will open with radar technology in place to spot stopped or broken-down vehicles quickly. In addition, all existing ALR motorways will have the technology fitted six months earlier than originally planned.

The pledge came as Highways England published the Smart Motorways Stocktake: First Year Progress Report 2021 setting out the progress it has made against an action plan published last year to boost safety. Work to update the Highway Code to provide more guidance about driving on ALR motorways will also be brought forward and is due to be published this year, ahead of schedule.

Available — here, the report stresses that, in terms of fatality rates, smart motorways are the safest roads in the country. ALR motorways, which do not have hard shoulders, are fitted with technology and features not seen on conventional motorways, such as set-back emergency areas and red “X” signs on gantries to close live lanes.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Despite the data showing that fatalities are less likely on All Lane Running motorways than on conventional ones, this doesn’t mean all drivers necessarily feel safe on them. That is why I tasked Highways England last year with delivering an action plan to raise the bar on safety measures even higher.”

Highways England’s response has been welcomed by the Road Haulage Association (RHA) which has said that it will help ministers do more to raise awareness across the industry.

Chief Executive Richard Burnett said: “Smart motorways increase journey efficiency but more needs to be done to help people understand how they work and boost their confidence in using them to improve safety.”

Officials could make the roads even safer by shortening gaps between refuge areas and better educating road users, he suggested. Mr Burnett also called for a Driver CPC (Certificate of Professional Competence) module dedicated to using smart motorways to be mandated for commercial vehicle drivers.