The government has taken other steps to improve the safety of hard-shouldered smart highways, including banning such highways from opening if they lack measures to detect stopped cars.
In a statement released today, Secretary of Transportation Grant Shapps said no more all-lane running highways (ALR) without radar technology should be opened to detect stopped vehicles.
He added that the technology will be rolled out on all operational ALR roads by September 2022. At the same time, Highways England is upgrading the country’s intelligent motorway cameras so that they can detect cars driving in closed lanes, the so-called “red X”. Violations that can be enforced by the police.
These recent moves build on actions outlined in a smart highways inventory report in March 2020 that included an 18-point action plan of camera enhancements and a £ 5 million advertising campaign to keep drivers ahead of the smart road etiquette Warn highways.
Shapps said, “This government takes the safety of our roads very seriously. We are determined to do everything we can to help drivers feel safer on our roads and be safer – on all of our roads. “
Smart highways were introduced in England in 2002. The controversial ALR versions, which use the hard shoulder as an additional lane, arrived in 2014. They have been linked to more than 38 deaths.
In February, a coroner referred Highways England to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider corporate manslaughter charges following the death of a woman in South Yorkshire when motorway monitors failed to determine her vehicle had broken down.
In response to the government’s recent announcement, Nicholas Lyes, RAC’s Road Policy Director, said: “While there appears to have been good progress in implementing some of the changes promised by the government last year, we fear drivers will wait up to 18 must enforce the signs for the closed red X-lane months before all cameras.
“Enforcement is critical to getting all drivers to obey these signs as anyone who ignores them is at a much greater risk of colliding with a stranded vehicle.”
His comments were echoed by Edmund King, President of the AA. King said that while progress on smart highways was “encouraging”, there was still much to be done.
“The main improvement advocated by the AA and our members is to increase the number of shelters and upgrade them to older systems to ensure that they are approximately 0.75 miles apart.” said king. “More ERAs, along with improving the accuracy of the radar to detect stopped vehicles, should be the pressing priorities. “
In a Stocktake first year progress report, Highways England said death rates on ALR motorways are lower than any other type of UK road. ALR highways have a fatal accident rate of 0.12 per hundred million vehicle miles compared to 0.16 for conventional highways and 0.44 for A-roads with a strategic road network.
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