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Cars Explained: The pros and cons of smart motorways

17:05  04 february  2020
17:05  04 february  2020 Source:   motoringresearch.com

Removing hard shoulder on smart motorways comprises safety, say drivers

  Removing hard shoulder on smart motorways comprises safety, say drivers Two-thirds of motorists believe all lane running increases dangerThe survey of drivers found that 68 per cent were worried about the safety implications of “all lane running” smart motorways where the hard shoulder had been turned into a normal lane, and half admitted they would not know what to do if they broke down on such a stretch.

A smart motorway (formerly managed motorway ) is a section of motorway that uses active traffic management (ATM) techniques to increase capacity by use of variable speed limits and hard shoulder

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a close up of a car going down the highway: Smart motorways dangerous © Provided by Motoring Research Smart motorways dangerous

When smart motorways were introduced in 2006, the goal was to tackle stop-start congestion using variable speed limits – and in some cases by incorporating the hard shoulder as a running lane.

Another aim was a reduction in collisions, as in theory traffic can be better controlled in relation to stopped vehicles. However, this latter goal has not been achieved, leading to considerable controversy.

With help from Moneybarn, we weigh up the pros and cons of smart motorways in light of the bad press – and plans for the ‘smart’ conversion of 300 miles of motorway between now and 2025.

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  How to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways Emergency refuge areas are a safe haven for stranded vehicles on busy smart motorways - but an alarming 52 percent of motorists don't know what they are or how to use them. The post How to use emergency refuge areas on smart motorways appeared first on Motoring Research.

“ SMART motorways ” is the buzzword of the moment in the motoring industry, yet the majority of drivers across the UK do not appear to know very much about the concept. This is according to research conducted by the Institute of Advanced Motorists, which polled 1

A smart motorway (formerly managed motorway ) is a section of motorway in Great Britain that uses active traffic management (ATM) techniques to In ‘all lane running’, the latest version of smart motorways , the hard shoulder is used as a live lane of traffic. Previous schemes have only used the

Smart motorways: the pros a highway filled with lots of traffic: Smart motorways slammed in MP's report © Provided by Motoring Research Smart motorways slammed in MP's report

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Increasing traffic flow

The obvious way to increase traffic flow is to add lanes. So you either build them, at great expense, or you convert existing space that’s not in use to a running lane. That’s what smart motorways do with hard shoulders, with the proviso that the lane can be deactivated in the event of a stopped vehicle being detected. There are also emergency refuge areas that ailing vehicles can use.

Broadly speaking, this was successful. Highways England figures showed that journey reliability was improved by 22 percent on roads where smart conversions took place.

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Savings money and the environment

The conversion of hard shoulders reduces expenditure on new lanes. That’s a saving made by the taxpayer, who would have footed the bill.

A less obvious saving is the environmental one. Better controlling traffic flow and speed, and mitigating stop-start movement, reduces emissions. It also means your car suffers less wear and tear.

a highway at night: Smart Motorway stopped vehicle detection doesn't always work © Provided by Motoring Research Smart Motorway stopped vehicle detection doesn't always work
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Hard shoulder safety was an issue anyway

One thing that’s curious to note is the safety record of non-smart motorway hard shoulders. In total, 40 percent of incidents involving a stopped-vehicle occur on a hard shoulder.

Emergency refuge areas, properly distributed, make collisions less likely due to their being separated from the road. Vehicles are less likely to drift into them than a hard shoulder, too.

'Smart' Motorways Under Review After Surge In Near-Misses

  'Smart' Motorways Under Review After Surge In Near-Misses The government is reviewing new ‘smart’ motorways, where the hard shoulder is taken away when busy, after a big increase in near-misses was revealed. An investigation by BBC Panorama found that on one of two converted sections of the M25, there were 1,485 near misses since the scheme was introduced five years ago.

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Smart motorways: the cons

a sign on a pole: Smart motorway emergency area upgrades © Provided by Motoring Research Smart motorway emergency area upgrades
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All-lanes-running casualties

Recent spates of casualties, crashes and near-misses involving stranded vehicles on all-lanes-running stretches have cast a shadow on the smart motorway idea. Indeed, some MPs have called for the rollout of these roads to be stopped. The AA won’t let its crews stop to help motorists until they’re towed to a refuge area.

It’s been posited this can be avoided with better stopped-vehicle detection systems, plus more frequent refuge areas. At the time of the smart motorway trials, refuge areas were four times closer together than on some later installations.

Emergency refuge areas

Which leads us into the emergency refuge area point. The consensus is that we need more of them, so that fewer people stop in-lane.

However, while you’re likely to be safer while stationary, getting back onto the road from a refuge area can be more dangerous. Hard shoulders offer more of a run-up when it comes to rejoining running lanes. Refuge areas are limited on space, and it can therefore be difficult to re-join safely, unless the lane you’re entering is slowed down.

Smart motorway ‘near misses’ soar by 2,000 percent

  Smart motorway ‘near misses’ soar by 2,000 percent A section of the M25 motorway has seen a 20-fold increase in 'near misses' since it was converted to a 'smart' all-lanes-running system. The post Smart motorway ‘near misses’ soar by 2,000 percent appeared first on Motoring Research.

a highway filled with lots of traffic: Smart motorways slammed in MP's report © Provided by Motoring Research Smart motorways slammed in MP's report
  • Part-time hard shoulders are ‘too complicated’, says motorways boss

Land of confusion

Much has been made of how smart motorways are confusing for road users. “Some hard shoulders on dynamic smart motorways are only open to running traffic during the morning and evening peaks, but this catches out some drivers when their routine changes,” Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan told the Commons Transport Select Committee last year.

Many don’t know that they can use the hard shoulder, others worry about sudden speed limit changes. However, it was recently revealed that smart motorway cameras give a one-minute grace period to drivers after a reduction in limit on the overhead gantries.

Smart motorways: is there a future for them? a close up of a car going down the highway: smart motorway speed cameras one minute grace period © Provided by Motoring Research smart motorway speed cameras one minute grace period

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There is a consensus, generally, that a couple of things need to occur to make smart motorways safe.

Firstly, drivers need to know how they work, and how to use them. And secondly, all-lanes-running necessitates more frequent refuge areas, plus better stopped-vehicle detection.

The post Explained: The pros and cons of smart motorways appeared first on Motoring Research.

Smart motorway safety plan revealed by government .
Transport secretary Grant Shapps has responded to safety concerns over smart motorways with a series of 18 measures to improve driver confidence.These include abolishing the ‘dynamic hard shoulder’, building more emergency areas, and speeding up the installation of cameras that detect stopped vehicles.

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