Should Smart Motorways Be Scrapped?

“People are dying on smart motorways” says MP Grant Shapps.

West Yorkshire's 4 Lane Smart Motorway

Not long ago, we ran a piece on this site about how to drive on smart motorways. It was prompted by research that showed many UK drivers are confused about when they can and cannot drive on the hard shoulder.

Regular motorway drivers will be familiar with the problem. If you’ve driven your hire vehicle on any of the smart motorways near your local TJS vehicle rental depot, you’ll no doubt have spotted plenty of drivers avoiding the hard shoulder even when it’s in use, or wandering into it when it’s out of action.

But it seems that this confusion is in some instances creating a lethal combination of conditions. As the BBC reports, eight year old Dev Naran was killed on the hard shoulder of the M6 when his grandfather’s car, which had pulled up on the hard shoulder, was hit by a lorry. Derek Jacobs was killed when his car sopped on a section of smart motorway on the M1. Jason Mercer was killed on the active hard shoulder of the M1 near Sheffield.

Too complicated

The growing body of evidence against smart motorways has led Jim O’Sullivan, the boss of Highways England to declare one type of smart system, dynamic motorways – where the hard shoulder is intermittently in use – as “too complicated”. He says he won’t be building any more of them.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps told a Commons Transport Select Committee he would review the latest data “because some of the statistics have been difficult to understand, and we know people are dying on smart motorways”.

He added: “Understanding whether they are less safe, the same or safer – it turns out not to be as straightforward as members might imagine – I want all of those facts and recommendations that can be put into place to ensure that all of our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be.”

Engineering change

What the future holds for active motorways, where the hard shoulder is always in use and which have not been immune from fatalities, is unclear.

What is clear is that there are problems with smart motorways, and that many of the smart systems in place at present fall within easy driving distance of our vehicle rental sites. Naturally, we are eager for all our clients to enjoy as safe a driving experience as possible, and if some elements of the smart system are compromising that, we’d be eager to see changes.

Looking for a great deal on a rental vehicle for your next motorway trip? Talk to us now.
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