The vast majority of “experienced” motorists have no confidence in so-called smart motorways, a leading road safety organisation claims. The assertion comes after IAM RoadSmart – formerly known as the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) – surveyed 4,500 of its members to canvass opinion on the motorways.
The study found 85 percent of the IAM RoadSmart members questioned said they wanted the authorities to stop building smart motorways. And 84 percent of the respondents said they had little faith in the current safety systems’ abilities to detect them if they broke down in a running lane and protect them until assistance arrived.
At the same time, the survey also revealed 81 percent of the respondents also felt they were less safe on a smart motorway compared with conventional motorways with three running lanes and a hard shoulder. The same proportion also said they thought hard shoulders should be reinstated on smart motorways with immediate effect.
Similarly, 80 percent said they wanted the safety refuges on smart motorways to be closer together. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps reportedly told MPs the distance between emergency refuge areas (ERAs) should be cut to no more than a mile, but the IAM RoadSmart survey found about four-fifths of respondents want that distance reduced to 500 metres.
And the research was damning when it came to the benefits of smart motorways, with 40 percent of IAM respondents claiming there was no noticeable improvement in journey times. Just four percent claimed they had found an improvement in journey times, while six percent said they thought journeys took longer than before.
“Our members include many high mileage, experienced and confident motorway users but the results of this survey are clear to see, with the vast majority having very little, or no confidence, in the safety of smart motorways,” said Neil Greig, the director of policy and research at IAM RoadSmart. “We would urge the Department for Transport and Highways England to listen to what smart motorway users are saying and to consider our findings, along with other in-depth research, to determine the best approach to developing the smart motorway network. Delaying decisions on smart motorways will only lead to more drivers getting stressed.
“Alongside more education for drivers, IAM RoadSmart wants to see strong leadership with clear decisions taken soon on whether the programme should be reversed, or provided with the appropriate funding that will speed up delivery of the promised refuges, CCTV and vehicle detection technology.”
A Highways England spokesperson said: “We recognise there are ongoing concerns about smart motorways and are determined to do all we can to make all drivers both feel safe and be safer on our roads. Our motorways are among the safest in the world, and the government’s evidence stocktake established that in most ways smart motorways are at least as safe as, or safer than, the conventional motorways they replaced. But not in every way.
“So we are taking forward the measures the Transport Secretary has set out in his 18-point smart motorways action plan which includes providing more and better information for drivers, with our current £5 million TV and radio campaign and planned updates being made to The Highway Code.”