Three quarters of British motorists will avoid the hard shoulder on smart motorways, even if the signs show it is open to traffic. That’s one of the findings from a new study by garage chain Kwik Fit, which surveyed more than 2,000 UK adults, found 73 percent will avoid the former hard shoulder on all-lane-running motorways.

That figure represents an increase on the 56 percent of drivers who said the same thing when a 2019 Kwik Fit survey asked that question. And the company says the increase comes amid concerns for driver safety on smart motorways.

Although the firm claims the understanding of smart motorway signage has improved in the past two years, it says there are now greater safety worries. For 31 percent of drivers who avoid the old hard shoulder, concern there may be a stationary vehicle ahead is cited as the reason. And 30 percent say they don’t think smart motorways are safe, so they simply drive as if it were a normal motorway.

UK smart motorway network

At the same time, 22 percent of drivers avoiding the hard shoulder said they were often uncertain whether they should be there or not as the signs were unclear. In 2019, that figure stood at 29 percent, suggesting greater knowledge of smart motorway rules, but it still shows one in five respondents are still not confident in understanding smart motorways signage.

Other reasons for avoiding the hard shoulder included concern about having no escape route to their left hand side if there is a need to change lanes quickly (19 percent), while 17 percent said they don’t like driving so close to the verge. And 15 percent said they were worried about damage from debris on the hard shoulder.

UK smart motorway network

Although the government has paused the rollout of all-lane running until five years of data is available, 36 percent of respondents said they thought the authorities should go further, reinstating permanent hard shoulders as quickly as possible. One in five (22 percent) said they thought the pause was a sensible approach that would help the government gather information.

“Smart motorways have been a huge topic of debate and it is absolutely correct for the government to pause their development to both gather data and ensure that the UK’s motorways are as safe as possible,” said Roger Griggs, the communications director at Kwik Fit. “It is clear that many drivers are yet to be convinced about the safety of smart motorways and therefore there must be clear transparency about all the data being gathered and the evidence on which future decisions are based.

“In the meantime, drivers must ensure they stay protected. Punctures and other tyre problems are a common cause of motorway emergencies. Whatever type of road people are driving on, they can make simple checks before setting off to reduce the risk of experiencing problems. Checking tyre pressure and condition, ensuring they have enough fuel for the trip, and topping up their oil to the correct level will all help in avoiding an emergency on their journey.”