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Government pledge to improve Smart Motorways

The first Smart Motorway began in 2006. But, there has been a lot of media attention surrounding ‘Smart Motorways’ and how ‘smart’ they actually are.

Smart Motorways pose an unnecessary risk to road users. It has been reported that in the past 5 years, 38 people have tragically lost their lives as a result of ‘Smart Motorways’. There have also been a large number of collisions.

After the inquest into a young boy, who sadly lost his life because of a Smart Motorway, it has been announced on the 12th March 2020, by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, that he will ‘raise the bar’ on motorway safety.

He said he had been ‘greatly concerned by a number of deaths on smart motorways, and moved by the accounts of families who’ve lost loved ones in these tragic incidents’’.

The government will tackle safety on smart motorways by abolishing ‘Dynamic Hard Shoulders’, speeding up detection technology for stopped vehicles and building more emergency refuge areas – by 2025. Motoring organisations said the moves were a ‘victory for common sense and safety’.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a Road Traffic Accident, contact our specialist team for advice on 0800 888 6888 or email us at

What is a Smart Motorway?

Smart Motorways use technology to manage traffic in busy periods to reduce congestion. This includes, using the hard shoulder as a running lane and changing the speed limit to control the flow of traffic. Highways England created smart motorways to minimise environmental impact, cost and time to develop by avoiding the need to build additional lanes.

What different types of smart motorways are there?

There are currently three different types of smart motorways. This includes:

  • ‘All lane running’ schemes – Permanently removes the hard shoulder, allowing it to be a running lane. This lane will only close in event of an accident, and a red X will be displayed above.
  • ‘Dynamic hard shoulder’ schemes – The hard shoulder will only be opened as a running lane to traffic at busy periods to ease congestion.
  • ‘Controlled motorways’ schemes – Controlled motorways have three or more lanes with variable speed limits, but retain a traditional hard shoulder.

The above three Smart Motorway schemes have caused confusion and safety risk amongst motorists.

The main concerns are the removal of the hard shoulder. At present, there are infrequent emergency areas that motorists are urged to drive to, if possible. But if not, this has caused motorists to stop in a busy open carriageway.

Also, variable speed limit changes have caused confusion and dangerous driving. Motorists are expected to slam on their brakes to reduce their speed time to meet the proposed speed limit.

The Government’s plan for smart motorways

By 2025, the government have proposed a number of changes, to effectively improve Smart Motorways. These include:

  • Abolishing dynamic hard shoulders.
  • Installing 10 additional emergency areas on the existing M25 smart motorway section.
  • Speeding up the deployment of technology to detect ‘stopped vehicles’.
  • More traffic signs giving the distance to the next place to stop in an emergency.
  • £5m to a communications campaign to increase awareness of how smart motorways work.

Hampson Hughes Solicitors

We welcome the proposed changes to Smart Motorways by the government and can only hope their recommendations do enough to protect motorists. If you have been affected by a Road Traffic Accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact our expert Personal Injury Solicitors… Call 0800 888 6888 – email info@hampsonhughes.comor fill out the contact form on our website

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