38 dead: Could it be the end for ‘Smart’ Motorways? | NEWS
Not so long ago, driving and riding on the hard shoulder of a British motorway was punishable by public flogging. It would be carried out at the roadside in full view of passing motorists, in an effort to deter offenders from venturing onto that hallowed piece of tarmac without dire need.
It’s an emergency lane, not a lane to drive in. Or at least it was before Smart Motorways arrived – 38 people have been killed on them in the past five years – according to a Freedom of Information request from BBC programme, Panorama to Highways England (programme to be screened on BBC1 at 8:30pm Monday 27th January. It’s also revealed that in the five years before one motorway was turned into a ‘Smart Motorway’ there were just 72 near misses. In the five years after, there were 1,485…
As traffic levels have increased and budget cuts have eaten into the funds available for developing strategies for coping with the extra demand on our overstretched, overused motorway network – some bright spark came up with the idea of using the ‘hard shoulder’ to miraculously add an extra useable ‘lane’ to many of our motorways. It’s billions of pounds cheaper to add some overhead signs, CCTV, stick a few extra cash-generating speed cameras up and employ ‘Traffic Officers’ to take the place of real police officers (real police officers, with real powers to look after our motorways, fine wrongdoers, be a visible deterrent, make common-sense decisions and uphold the law).
Billions and billions of pounds cheaper than adding ‘real’ lanes to motorways by widening them. What a fantastic idea, let’s call it a ‘Smart Motorway’ or ALR – All lane Running motorway. No doubt the cash-saving imbecile was rewarded well and put back in the closet to dream up yet more smart ideas.
Dicing with death
If you’ve ever seized a two-stroke on a motorway, broken down, had a puncture or suffered some other emergency you’ll know that having a safe place to try and coast to is priceless. It’s literally a lifesaver. About two minutes after the picture above was taken whilst riding down the A42/M42 last summer, Linsey seized her S2 – whilst overtaking a lorry. Myself and the quick-thinking lorry driver slowed two lanes of traffic down to get her to coast to safety, luckily at that point, there was a hard shoulder to use.
Sadly, Smart Motorways have taken away that safe refuge. Talking of refuges, when the first Smart Motorway was trialled on the M42 near Birmingham it had safe refuges positioned every 600 yards. After the trial was deemed a success, the then Transport Minister, Sir Mike Penning signed it off to be rolled out across the country but in many places refuges are now up to two and a half miles apart! Mr Penning is now calling for them to be scrapped amidst safety concerns. The motorway system may well run slightly more efficiently (most of the time) but when things do go wrong and you have a tailgating car/van/truck right up your jacksie the Smart Motorway suddenly doesn’t seem so clever – as the families of the 38 (and counting) dead so far will testify.
Scrap Smart Motorways
A Rotherham MP agrees and has called for Smart Motorways to be scrapped after five people were killed in accidents on the M1 in her constituency – in just ten months. The scary thing is, that was just on a 16-mile stretch of motorway. Rotherham MP, Sarah Champion told the BBC “it is totally unacceptable to risk lives in the name of cost savings”. She also asked the government to “take the opportunity of a recently announced review into smart motorways to change course and prevent further loss of life”. Sarah cited the death of two men who were killed on a Smart Motorway, the widow of one of them, is bringing legal action against Highways England for the death of her husband.
The fourth emergency service
This comes amidst reports that the AA are no longer prepared to carry out roadside assistance on ALR – All lane Running motorways due to safety concerns. The Transport Secretary, Grant Schapps was grilled by Panorama and is currently gathering evidence and data related to Smart Motorways. He is expected to make an announcement soon.
Have you had a near miss?
Comment on ths story if you’ve had a near miss, close call or accident on a Smart Motorway. Also feel free to comment with your thoughts as a vulnerable two-wheeled user.
You can also sign this online petition against Smart Motorways.
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