Written evidence submitted by Mr John Prior (RSM0023)

Introduction

I’m a private individual and am very concerned about the danger to life posed by smart motorways.

Smart motorways can never be as safe as motorways with a hard shoulder for two simple reasons:

  1. If a vehicle develops a fault which causes it to come to a halt, on a motorway with a hard shoulder there’s a good chance that it’ll be able to get to the hard shoulder before it stops completely; once there, it’s occupants can disembark and move to a place of safety. If the same thing happens on a smart motorway, unless the vehicle happens to be approaching an ‘emergency area’ and manages to access it (it may, of course, already be fully occupied) it will come to a halt in a ‘live’ lane and then the lives of its occupants will be in immediate danger from vehicles approaching from behind. This is irrespective of whether the vehicle's occupants decide to remain in the vehicle or disembark with the intention of moving to a place of safety – and it is also irrespective of ANY current or future technology that might be employed, because by the time the 'technology' has spotted the danger and alerted an operator and the operator has responded it will likely be too late, as has been proven by the number of fatalities and serious injuries that have occurred since smart motorways were introduced. In 2017 there were five deaths on smart motorways; 11 deaths in 2018; 14 deaths in 2019.
  2. The absence of a hard shoulder greatly affects the survival chances of those involved in an accident who sustain life-threatening injuries. Previously, the emergency services had unfettered access to the scene of an accident via the hard shoulder but now their attendance at an accident is inevitably delayed by them having to navigate through traffic queueing behind the accident in the live lanes – a delay which could prove fatal to those involved in the accident.
     

Conclusion

For the two reasons given above, smart motorways can never be as safe as a motorway with a hard shoulder. So, what is preferable: that the Government and Highways England admit that the concept of smart motorways was flawed from the onset – something that anyone with an ounce of common sense could have told them – or that they continue to preside over an ever-increasing death rate?

 

 

March 2021