Written evidence submitted by IAM RoadSmart (RSM0072)

 

IAM RoadSmart (previously IAM – the Institute of Advanced Motorists) is the UK’s largest independent road safety charity, dedicated to improving standards and safety in driving and motorcycling. Best known for the advanced test, IAM RoadSmart has over 82,000 members and is supported by a local volunteer network of around 180 groups in the UK. We provide driver risk management solutions to businesses and driver retraining through the IAM Driver Retraining Academy. IAM RoadSmart’s policy and research division publishes original research on road safety issues.

 

Inquiry Questions

 

The benefits of smart motorways, for instance to reduce congestion on busy sections of motorway, and how necessary they are;

 

It is very hard to answer this question against the background of the recent pandemic restrictions which have affected traffic flows to an unprecedented level. Our survey (Appendix 1) suggests that current users have seen little difference in congestion levels.  However, IAM RoadSmart are aware that the UK has some of the most congested motorways in Europe and smart motorways can be a temporary solution to the need to improve competitiveness.  This should not be done at the expense of safety, howeverHighways England should be able to provide more granular data on performance before and after the installation of smart motorways.  This would allow key question about performance by time of day, seasonality, weather etc to be answered.  Have smart motorways reduced minor collisions at the rear of traffic jams for instance?  Has the ability to reduce speed limits in congested traffic improved safety of itself?

 

The safety of smart motorways, the adequacy of safety measures in place and how safety could be improved;

IAM RoadSmart accept the data provided by Highways England (HE) that safety performance of smart motorways is at least equal to that of traditional motorwaysHowever, this information needs to be balanced with more road user opinions of how safe drivers actually feel on a new motorway.  Our survey suggests over 80% do not feel safe. Performance information must also include response times and information from HE control centres about how they dealt with incidents on smart motorways compared to traditional ones.  The experience of the emergency services in accessing incidents should also be part of this analysis. 

 

Like most other road safety organisations IAM RoadSmart were shocked to read the details emerging from recent coroner investigations into smart motorway fatalities.  The idea that control centres are not manned and monitoring properly 24/7, the lack of SVD and the difficulties in exiting vehicles at certain locations all show that the implementation of these new designs has not matched the rhetoric.  As found by Transport Focus surveys, drivers do not understand the ‘behind the scenes’ work that goes into making a smart motorway.  If they can’t see it, they can’t feel the benefit of it   HE needs to work much harder to explain the techniques they are using and what they mean for the average driver.

 

In our view this can still be turned around but only if HE and Dft act quickly with a detailed and swift programme of improvements.  This could start immediately though more staff in control centres, more education and information campaigns and more high-profile Traffic Officer patrols.

 

IAM RoadSmart also link the lack of service areas, and the high costs at them, with safety issues on motorways.  Cheaper and more frequent opportunities to stop are now even more important given the stress caused by smart motorways in the minds of many users, and the critical need to avoid stopping due to breakdowns for example.

 

Whether All Lane Running is the most suitable type of smart motorway to roll out or if there are better alternatives;

In the absence of the funding and political will to widen motorways, whilst retaining a hard shoulder, smart motorways do appear to be a potentially viable solution.  IAM RoadSmart accept HE findings that part time hard shoulders often confuse drivers.  However, the lack of a hard shoulder is the key stress point for many drivers and research is needed into what works best to reassure drivers in its absence.  That may be more frequent refuges, but it may also just be about more frequent gantries, more electronic signs, more obvious camera housings or high profile Traffic Officer presence.  HE needs to research this with users.  IAM RoadSmart has also been surprised by the lack of international experience with this type of road.  Whilst smart motorways as could have been a chance for the UK to lead the world in new technology that is now at risk as public confidence fades.

 

Public confidence in using smart motorways and how this could be improved;

Our survey shows worryingly low support for smart motorways – even among our sample of experienced advanced driversUnless HE and the Dft move quickly to reassure drivers they risk losing the PR battle and may find it impossible to continue the programme as currently implemented.  They may even be forced into a costly retreat wasting public funds on a level not seen before on our motorway network.  IAM RoadSmart welcomes the involvement of regulators such as the ORR and Transport Focus in evaluating smart motorways but it is clear they are not seen as truly ‘independent’ by many road users.

It has long been assumed that motorway users would simply learn what to do on a smart motorway.  Whilst a new generation of young drivers can now experience motorway driving as learners, it will take many years for this level of experience to have any positive impact.  HE has consulted on changes to the Highway Code which will help, but IAM RoadSmart believes that more active incentives and opportunities to learn about smart motorways are needed now.  This could take the form of online learning modules of the type we provide to our fleet customers.  HE Traffic Officers and the police could also signpost these as learning options.  Focussed smart motorway speed awareness, careless driving and Red X violation courses would also help.  There is also a need for consistent enforcement of speed limits and Red X violations across the network.  The role of the police in supporting safe smart motorway use should be a recognised Home Office policing priority.

 

The impact of smart motorways on the usage and safety of other roads in the strategic road network;

IAM RoadSmart is not aware of any scientific evidence to show that diversion from smart motorways is causing additional road safety problems at a local level.  It is a concern for us however, and the verbatim comments in our survey suggests that many drivers do now actively avoid them.

 

The effectiveness of Highways England’s delivery of the smart motorways programme, the impact of construction works, and the costs of implementation.

As mentioned previously IAM RoadSmart welcome the involvement of the ORR and Transport Focus as independent regulators of the smart motorway programme.  Their work must be open and transparent and backed up by access to good data and road user opinion surveys.  Disruption during the construction of smart motorways has been long lasting and intense for many users.  They would not wish to see this repeated but in our view many would probably find it acceptable if the final outcome were safer motorways stretches with more refuges, more gantries and SVD/CCTV technology in place as promised.  Funding restrictions should not be a barrier to implementing the truly smart motorways that drivers were promised.

 

 

Appendix 1 –

 

Survey Results on Smart Motorways


 

 

 

Q1 Have you ever travelled on a smart motorway?

Answered: 4,758              Skipped: 0

 

 

 

Yes

 

 

 

 

No

 

 

 

 

Prefer not to

answer

 

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

Yes

92.79%              4,415

No

6.81%              324

 


 

Prefer not to answer


0.40%              19

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Q2 How safe do you feel travelling on smart motorways?

Answered: 4,403              Skipped: 355

 

 

Safer than on a normal...

 

 

Less safe than on a normal...

 

 

No difference

 

 

 

Unsure

 

 

Other (please

specify)

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

Safer than on a normal motorway

1.82%

80

Less safe than on a normal motorway

80.94%

3,564

No difference

12.01%

529

Unsure

1.52%

67

 


 

Other (please specify)


3.70%              163

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Q3 It has been proposed that all smart motorways should have the hard shoulder reinstated immediately. Do you agree with this?

Answered: 4,725              Skipped: 33

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

Strongly agree              Slightly agree              Neither agree or disagree Slightly disagree                            Strongly disagree

 

 

STRONGLY AGREE

SLIGHTLY AGREE

NEITHER AGREE OR DISAGREE

SLIGHTLY DISAGREE

STRONGLY DISAGREE

TOTAL

 

 

76.74%

3,626

11.07%

523

3.77%

178

4.25%

201

4.17%

197

 

4,725

 

 


 

 

 

Q4 There have been calls to stop the building of any more smart motorways until the safety case is fully proven. Do you agree with this approach?

Answered: 4,723              Skipped: 35

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

Strongly agree              Slightly agree              Neither agree or disagree Slightly disagree                            Strongly disagree

 

 

STRONGLY AGREE

SLIGHTLY AGREE

NEITHER AGREE OR DISAGREE

SLIGHTLY DISAGREE

STRONGLY DISAGREE

TOTAL

 

 

85.12%

4,020

6.56%

310

2.54%

120

2.54%

120

3.24%

153

 

4,723

 

 


 

 

 

Q5 Do you feel that your journey times have improved or would improve as a result of the use of smart motorways?

Answered: 4,710              Skipped: 48

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

Very noticeable improvement                            Noticeable improvement   Same as before No noticeable improvement              Worse than before

 

 

VERY NOTICEABLE IMPROVEMENT

NOTICEABLE IMPROVEMENT

SAME AS BEFORE

NO NOTICEABLE IMPROVEMENT

WORSE THAN BEFORE

TOTAL

 

 

3.89%

18.92%

31.32%

40.28%

5.61%

 

 

183

891

1,475

1,897

264

4,710

 


 

 

 

Q6 Do you feel confident that you know what to do in the event of a breakdown on a smart motorway?

Answered: 4,705              Skipped: 53

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

Very confident              Quite confident              Neither confident or unconfident Quite unconfident                            Very unconfident

 

 

VERY CONFIDENT

QUITE CONFIDENT

NEITHER CONFIDENT OR UNCONFIDENT

QUITE UNCONFIDENT

VERY UNCONFIDENT

TOTAL

 

 

21.49%

1,011

31.16%

1,466

16.11%

758

18.09%

851

13.16%

619

 

4,705

 

 


 

 

 

Q7 If you broke down in a running lane of a smart motorway, would you trust the new systems to detect you and use electronic signs to protect you until help arrived?

Answered: 4,699              Skipped: 59

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

Complete trust   Partial trust  Unsure              Limited trust No trust whatsoever

 

 

COMPLETE TRUST

PARTIAL TRUST

UNSURE

LIMITED TRUST

NO TRUST WHATSOEVER

TOTAL

 

 

1.00%

47

8.51%

400

6.19%

291

28.56%

1,342

55.74%

2,619

 

4,699

 

 


 

 

 

Q8 At what distance and frequency do you think safety refuges on a smart motorway should be spaced?

Answered: 4,690              Skipped: 68

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

Very frequent (100 metres apart) Frequent (500 metres apart)

Regular (1 km apart)              Less frequent (more than 1.5 km apart)              Not sure

 

 

VERY FREQUENT (100 METRES APART)

FREQUENT (500 METRES APART)

REGULAR (1 KM APART)

LESS FREQUENT (MORE THAN 1.5 KM APART)

NOT SURE

TOTAL

 

 

47.31%

33.24%

9.21%

0.81%

9.42%

 

 

2,219

1,559

432

38

442

4,690

 


 

 

 

Q9 Are you:

Answered: 4,666              Skipped: 92

 

 

 

An IAM

RoadSmart...

 

 

 

An IAM

RoadSmart...

 

 

 

Not an IAM RoadSmart...

 

 

 

Prefer not to

say

 

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

An IAM RoadSmart member

88.02%

4,107

An IAM RoadSmart associate

3.90%

182

Not an IAM RoadSmart member

6.58%

307

 


 

Prefer not to say


1.50%              70

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Q10 Age:

Answered: 4,667              Skipped: 91

 

 

Under 25

 

 

26-35

 

 

36-45

 

 

46-55

 

 

56-65

 

 

65+

 

 

Prefer not say

 

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

Under 25

0.34%

16

26-35

1.35%

63

36-45

3.13%

146

46-55

8.81%

411

56-65

25.56%

1,193

65+

58.41%

2,726

 


 

Prefer not say


2.40%              112

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Q11 Where do you live?

Answered: 4,669              Skipped: 89

 

 

North East

 

 

North West

 

 

Yorkshire and the Humber

 

East Midlands

 

 

West Midlands

 

 

East of England

 

 

London

 

 

South East (excluding...

 

South West

 

 

Scotland

 

 

Northern Ireland

 

Republic of

Ireland

 

 

Wales

 

 

Prefer not to

say

 

Other (please

specify)

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 


 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

North East

2.76%

129

North West

11.46%

535

Yorkshire and the Humber

8.78%

410

East Midlands

7.52%

351

West Midlands

9.68%

452

East of England

7.43%

347

 

London

4.41%

206

South East (excluding London)

24.82%

1,159

South West

13.84%

646

Scotland

4.03%

188

Northern Ireland

0.60%

28

Republic of Ireland

0.19%

9

Wales

2.78%

130

Prefer not to say

0.66%

31

 


 

Other (please specify)


1.03%              48

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Q12 Which vehicle do you predominantly use?

Answered: 4,669              Skipped: 89

 

 

Car

 

 

 

Motorcycle

 

 

Commercial

vehicle

 

 

Bicycle

 

 

 

None

 

 

Other (please

specify)

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

Car

88.78%

4,145

Motorcycle

6.77%

316

Commercial vehicle

2.25%

105

Bicycle

0.32%

15

None

0.09%

4

 


 

Other (please specify)


1.80%              84

 


 

 

 


 

 

 

Q13 What is your gender?

Answered: 4,670              Skipped: 88

 

 

 

Male

 

 

 

 

Female

 

 

 

 

Prefer not to

answer

 

 

0%              10%              20%              30%              40%              50%              60%              70%              80%              90% 100%

 

 

ANSWER CHOICES

RESPONSES

Male

86.45%              4,037

Female

11.82%              552

 


 

Prefer not to answer


1.73%              81

 


 

 

 


 

 

April 2021