They may be ‘smart’ but the majority of UK drivers don’t think our high-tech motorways are safe. Only 5% of British drivers think the new motorway scheme, in which the conventional ‘hard shoulder’ is opened to free-flowing traffic, is as safe as using traditional motorways. And more than a third (36%) think hard shoulders should be reinstated as soon as possible.
The Government has recently announced a pause in the introduction of more smart motorways while they assess their safety. It follows a number of high-profile deaths of car users who were stranded in a live motorway lane.
The new research, from automotive repair company Kwik-Fit, has revealed that an increasing number of drivers are taking their own precautionary measures when using smart stretches that are already in operation.
It found that 73% of British drivers say they don’t drive on the hard shoulder of a smart motorway, even though the signs show that it is open for traffic. This number has increased from 56% of drivers when the company asked the same question in 2019.
Concerns that there may be a stationary vehicle ahead is the most common reason (31%) given by drivers who said they avoided the hard shoulder. Just behind that (30%) of drivers said they simply did not think that smart motorways are safe and therefore drive as if it’s a normal motorway.
While only 22% of drivers said they did not understand the signage – compared with 29% in 2019 – it still means that one in five drivers who don’t use the hard shoulder say they are still not confident with the current gantry signs.
Approximately the same number of hard shoulder avoiders (19%) say they are concerned about having no escape route to their left hand side if they have to change lanes quickly, 17% say they don’t like driving so close to the verge, and 15% are worried about damage from debris on the hard shoulder.
More than one in three drivers (36%) believe smart motorways are more dangerous and, rather than any Government pause in their further introduction, they want permanent hard shoulders reinstated as soon as possible.
Six per cent of people believe that smart motorways are more dangerous but that any increase in risk is justified if they reduce congestion, but 12% said congestion problems should be tackled in a different way.
“Smart motorways have been a huge topic of debate and it is absolutely correct for the government to pause their development to both gather data and ensure that the UK’s motorways are as safe as possible,” said Roger Griggs, Kwik-Fit communications director.
“In the meantime, drivers must ensure they stay protected. Punctures and other tyre problems are a common cause of motorway emergency. Checking tyre pressures and condition, ensuring they have enough fuel for the trip, and topping up their oil to the correct level will all help in avoiding an emergency on their journey.”