Written evidence submitted by Mr Alan Berrill (RSM0015)


As you know from recent media attention, "Smart " Motorways are causing great concern on a fundamental safety issue. The number of fatalities & collisions due to the lack of a constant "hard shoulder" is an ever increasing concern which will never be overcome with technology.

As a driving instructor I am constantly aware of the failure of technology (& its operators) on our road system, particularly on our local Motorways (M4, M25 & sometimes M40).

Last year , due the misguided development of the M4 in our area into a "Smart" Motorway, I had a "near miss" one dark evening (about 10pm) on an unlit section between junction 7 & 8/9 exit when suddenly becoming aware of a stationary, UNLIT,  broken down car, in the left (live) lane which I was travelling in, at the currently reduced speed limit of 50mph (due to "Smart" roadworks), noticing just in time to check the mirrors, brake hard & manage to move lane  after allowing for another speeding car to pass in the middle lane. I would estimate that I used up 40 of my 53 metres overall stopping distance before I could move lane !

I dread to think what would have happened if I was forced to stop behind the already stationary vehicle, with no hard shoulder to divert into & if there had been other traffic in the middle lane too close to the speeding car I had to delay lane change for. A less experienced driver would maybe not have been so fortunate.

I tend to avoid using that way home on the M4 now ! The M40 is a safer option.

I am sure you have seen the similar video clip real-life incident on recent tv news reports, & that was in daylight !  MP's need to reverse this totally insane idea that there is no need for a safety lane which was 1 of the main determining factors that enabled a road to be labelled a Motorway from its conception.  Any vehicle is capable of all kinds sudden faults which necessitate a quick stop in a safe place. There is often not enough time to travel on up to 1.5miles ahead to find a designated safe stopping layby. AA , RAC etc. will confirm that. I have heard numerous police officers say that not only do the issues described exist but it makes it more difficult for them when attending the collisions which occur (even in other lanes) as they no longer have an empty lane to bypass stationary traffic when an incident does occur.

The term "Smart" for these Motorways is a total misnomer, as I believe even Grant Shapps agrees, but it needs a more serious effort than improving the observational technology & a few more laybys.

If it takes 96m to stop at 70mph & allowing for drivers who often travel too close to the vehicle in front, common sense logic says the safety laybys need to be at minimum every 50m ! Easier & even safer to keep the constant hard shoulder.

Please,  if not possible to add a "hard shoulder" to already developed "Smart" motorways re-instate the nearside lane as the hard shoulder as a priority .

Please don't embrace the advance of technology at the expense of lives. The human operators make mistakes & the technology itself is subject to malfunction, power cuts, weather etc. etc.

There may be a temptation to make this same mistake with Driverless Vehicles too. Much more time & development is needed before they become a threat to us all. Let common sense reign. RESTORE THE SAFETY HARD SHOULDERS ON ALL MOTORWAYS .

A few quotes from articles I have read recently.

Smart motorways are “inherently unsafe and dangerous and should be abandoned," a police and crime commissioner has said. Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire 's PCC, became the latest voice demanding the controversial road system – in which the hard shoulder becomes an extra live lane – be scrapped.

NOT SO SMART       20 Jan 2020,James Gratton ,  Sun Newspaper

Smart motorways are so dangerous that the AA won’t let its breakdown crews stop on them


A former AA patrolman of the year confirmed the company's policy in a BBC documentary which is set to air tonight. (Panorama)

Instead, staff must head to a safe location and wait for the driver's car to be moved there by Highways England.

Tony Rich, a former AA patrolman of the year, said: "'We'll contact the customer to say 'we can't stop where you are'.

"We will contact Highways England, go to a safe area and wait for the vehicle to be delivered."

Edmund King, AA president says; "Being stuck in a live lane is in incredibly dangerous. The official advice is keep your seat belt and hazard lights on and dial 999.

Grenfell Tower reminder ?!! Similar/Parallel situation ?? !! What happens if your battery is at fault & hazard lights either very dim or don’t work, unlit road & no vehicle lights ??  Don’t have a mobile phone !!

"It is not safe for breakdown organisations to recover vehicles unless the lane is closed and has a physical presence sat behind the casualty vehicle.

"This is either the Police with blue flashing lights or Highways England Traffic Officers with red flashing lights.

All of the deadly crashes happened after motorists failed to reach a safe lay-by area known as an Emergency Refuge Area, which are currently 1.5 miles apart.

Mail online 3/3/21

Two thirds of Britons think smart motorways are less safe than normal ones with hard shoulders and 57 per cent of people are opposed to their use entirely, a YouGov poll has revealed. 

Of those polled, the over 65s were found to be the most opposed to the use of smart motorways, with eight in ten saying they were less safe compared to traditional motorways. A whopping 79 per cent of over 65s said they were against them 

More than half (57%) of Britons said they opposed the use of smart motorways in Britain, with 34 per cent of those expressing that they were 'strongly opposed' to the concept. 

Opinions on their use are somewhat divided, with a quarter of those polled stating they supported smart motorways.  Only six per cent said they strongly support their implementation. 

Mr.Mercer Case

In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, Dr Billings accused Highways England of trading 'driver safety for lower costs' and using 'flawed' logic to justify smart motorways, The Telegraph reports.   

It was sent just days after a coroner ruled that the deaths of two men on the M1 near Sheffield was in part due to turning the hard shoulder into a live lane.

The inquests into the 'unlawful killings' of Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, heard that smart motorways present an 'ongoing risk of future deaths'.

Dr Billings wrote in his letter: 'I think the coroner's verdict makes it imperative now to abandon this type of motorway before more lives are lost.' 

He says he attended a meeting with Highways England in January last year to 'discuss road safety', claiming they 'sought to persuade me that smart motorways were as safe if not safer than the usual type of motorway'. 

Dr Billings said he believes their conclusion was arrived at through 'flawed' arguing, and it was not 'helpful' to compare collisions or deaths on the two types of motorway. 

He added: 'The relevant test for us is whether someone who breaks down on this stretch of the motorway where there is no hard shoulder, would have had a better chance of escaping death or injury had there still been a hard shoulder - and the coroner's verdict makes it clear that the answer to that question is: ''Yes''.' 

Last week, Coroner David Urpeth warned smart motorways present 'an ongoing risk of future deaths' as he gave verdicts of unlawful killing at an inquest. 

He ruled the lack of a hard shoulder had contributed to the deaths of Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22.

The vast majority of motorway-style roads in Europe have a permanent emergency lane.



March 2021