New research has found that a clear majority of drivers want an end to controversial all-lane-running on smart motorways. 

majority of motorists want smart motorways scrapped

© Provided by Motoring Research RAC Smart Motorways Survey

A substantial 62 percent of those surveyed for the RAC Report on Motoring 2021 wanted a return of the hard shoulder. 

This would mean the end of using all lanes for live traffic – although respondents wanted to keep the range of safety measures introduced on them.

Little faith in authorities or technology

majority of motorists want smart motorways scrapped

© Provided by Motoring Research RAC Smart Motorways Survey

Only 24 percent of those asked believed that the current smart motorway setup should be retained. Of the more than 2,600 drivers surveyed, 63 percent did not believe the measures introduced to compensate for a lack of a hard shoulder are adequate. 

These include variable speed limits, closed-lane signs, cameras to spot stationary traffic, and refuge areas every 1.6 miles. Just 15 percent believed these features were adequate for safe driving. 

Faith in the ability of National Highways (formerly Highways England) to deal with live breakdowns is also low. Less than a third (30 percent) would trust National Highways to spot a stationary vehicle in a live lane – down from 53 percent in 2019.

Almost a quarter of those asked (24 percent) now state smart motorways are one of their top motoring worries. Less than half of all drivers (43 percent) said they felt safe using all-lane-running motorways.

Long-term safety concerns

majority of motorists want smart motorways scrapped

© Provided by Motoring Research RAC Smart Motorways Survey

Smart motorways have had a troubled history. In 2016, a cross-party group of MPs called for further openings of them to be halted. 

Last year saw the government finally pause the deployment of all-lane-running options. The House of Commons Transport Committee opened an inquiry into smart motorways earlier this year, with a final report due soon.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We’ve always had safety concerns about all-lane-running motorways and have raised these by giving evidence to two separate Transport Committee inquiries. While the Government published its 18-point action plan in 2020, the RAC has continued to push for new safety features to be introduced as quickly as possible. 

“Although much of the plan is on track and the installation of crucial stopped vehicle detection technology is now due to be completed ahead of schedule, it seems the only thing that will truly satisfy most drivers is the reinstatement of the hard shoulder.”

He added that: “The Government is therefore faced with a difficult choice between continuing to roll out unpopular all-lane-running motorways very much against drivers’ wishes or reinstating the hard shoulder, effectively creating three-lane ‘controlled motorways’ which would have the benefit of improved safety features but with less overall capacity.”

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