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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am getting concerned about the dialogue in the media regarding the danger of stationery cars on the hard shoulder of a smart motorway when it is open to traffic.

Both side of the argument have rightfully pointed out that in the past 5 years a total of 38 people have died in or near their vehicle when stationery on a smart motorway, despite the fact that when the hard shoulder is in use – the speed limit for the motorway is significantly reduced.

They also fail to remind us that in a typical year, over 100 are killed on a motorway which has not yet been made smart, in an accident with a stationary vehicle on the hard shoulder. About 75% of which have remained in or about their vehicle and have not, as advised, evacuated the vehicle and waited the other side of the safety barrier.

Neither are we reminded that there are hundreds (if not thousands) of miles of A roads with dual carriageway without hard shoulders, safety barriers on the left, or regular refuges, that retain the 70 mph speed limit. I cannot find any information about deaths on these roads involving stationary vehicles. My bet is there are plenty. I can’t recall any public furore about such A roads and have yet to see any mention of the anomaly in the recent furore.

The motorway nearest to my home is the M42 which was a traffic gridlock nightmare before it was made into a smart motorway several years ago and serious accidents were daily. It now has less accidents and has improved traffic flow at peak times when the hard shoulder is open.

I can only conclude that whilst deaths associated with stationary cars on smart shoulders is regrettable – it is the price we pay for the overall reduction in deaths on motorways. If it was made an offence to stay in the vehicle, and people complied, the death rate would be minimal.

I just wish the present media frenzy took a more clinical and balanced view and that the government don’t make a hasty decision either way.
 

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The recent inquest reported in the media concerned an accident on the M1 just north of Sheffield J34. Here the motorway has four lanes running permanently with no hard shoulder at any time just emergency refuge areas (ERAs) about a mile apart. The hard shoulders that used to exist have been converted into permanent running lanes. The speed limit on that stretch of motorway is the national 70mph limit unless there are conditions that merit a reduction. One problem highlighted at the inquest was the considerable time taken for disabled vehicles to be reported to or spotted by the smart motorway control room so that they can then set signals to warn approaching traffic and also set appropriate speed limits. In the incident in question neither lane closures nor speed limits were set.

Around here, in West and South Yorkshire, we have three different types of motorway / smart motorway that can be traversed in a short time and distance - a journey of 20 miles can take you through all of them on M1 and M62. They are the older conventional motorway (three running lanes plus hard shoulder); the smart motorway where the hard shoulder is used intermittently when heavy traffic dictates (with ERAs provided); and the version with four running lanes and no hard shoulder (only widely spaced ERAs) such as the one near Sheffield.

When smart motorways were first trialled on the M42, the live running hard shoulders were not run continuously through junctions and the ERAs were at around 500m spacing. Then they next trialled running the live hard shoulder through junctions; then ERAs were spaced about 800m apart. After a few more tweaks, the next evolution was the permanently run hard shoulder with even more widely spaced ERAs (up to about a mile and a half - and some of those around here are towards the top of a hill so how you are meant to reach those in the event of a mechanical problem is debatable). As things have developed control gantries are more widely spaced also.

There is better technology available (and in limited use, I believe, on M25) so that the control rooms get much quicker notification of the need to close lanes and impose speed limits, and do not have to rely on cameras. At the very least this technology needs to be rolled out nationally with some haste.

Yes, utilising the hard shoulder in times of congestion does have benefits but the mix of different types is potentially dangerous. South Yorkshire police were vociferous in their objections to the proposals at Sheffield but they were over-ruled. Unfortunately they have been proved right.

I think it is only right that there is a measured review of smart motorways and their operation to determine what can be done to make them safer. Such a review has supposedly already underway since the incident occurred some time ago. The Coroner's remarks merely reinforce the need for the review.
 

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Some of the statistics are used by one side to bolster their argument and vice versa. My personal opinion is that they do not yet fully work correctly. I have a stretch of the M6 that is 'smart' and unfortunately not of the motorists are not. I have travelled the full length of this stretch in lane 1 at 70MPH and have passed umteen vehicles that just sit in lane 2 and have no intention of moving over. That is in itself a huge opportunity for an accident as it would necessitate me to move into lane 3 to pass them or do as I do and just pass on the left hoping they don't panic and swerve into lane 1. Ignorance of how the overhead signage works and what the symbols mean is also a concern as lane 1 lane closed signs are passed with oblivion into where the stranded vehicle is at most risk. Education has got to be the key and it has to start with the driving schools and highway code.
 

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I have travelled the full length of this stretch in lane 1 at 70MPH and have passed umteen vehicles that just sit in lane 2 and have no intention of moving over. That is in itself a huge opportunity for an accident as it would necessitate me to move into lane 3 to pass them or do as I do and just pass on the left hoping they don't panic and swerve into lane 1. ......

Education has got to be the key and it has to start with the driving schools and highway code.
Agree fully.

The police should have a blitz on the lane 2/3 hoggers, and those that think 60 mph on a clear road is acceptable in those lanes. I seriously doubt if there has been a single fine issued for these selfish driving techniques. I would also add those who refuse to move from lane 1 to 2 for merging traffic at junctions they also need to be pulled up by the police.

People have mentioned the Smart Section of the M1 around Sheffield. In my experience this section often spends over 60% of daylight hours at 50 or 60 mph " for air quality" control. It seems that all the money and road works time to make it smart were a waste of time :)

On those occasions that I drive in the semi smart areas, with part time hard shoulder, I must admit it is often unclear if the shoulder is open, particularly around junctions.

Overall I think we were sold a pup, the monumental construction costs, construction delays and excessive use of speed restrictions, for no apparent (or road safety) reason mean that, to me, there are few overall benifits. It was said smart motorways would reduce congestion, the same could have been achieved by increasing the speed limit and enforcing good driving and adherance to the Highway Code. When there is an accident all lanes get congested / speed restricted anyway so it would not matter if there were 2,3,4,5.... lanes.
 

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The case for smart motorways was based upon some trials with refuges every <whatever> distance and a monitoring system for fast response to stranded motors. This trial being well it was extended, BUT the frequency of refuges was significantly reduced thus increasing the chances of a car not being able to make it to the refuge. It also emerges that the response times to strandigs is significantly longer than presumed. Add to this the fact that EVs seem not to coast at all well so they come to a stop sooner. While motorways are relatively safe roads, smart motorways are less safe. This is an abominable abrogation of responsibility. Thwe issue wrt emergency services access was also not factored in to the study and the Emergency Services all report difficulties in gaining timely access to scenes of accidents. It is a shameful development.
 

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Mostly my experience has been on the M42 bizarrely, rather than the much closer top of the M3 or M25, but I thought they worked well in normal operation, and I was an immediate fan. But recent poor implementation in some places is making me wonder.

The judge in the recent case (I think the accident near Sheffield?) said he had no idea how to use a smart motorway. And I imagine a lot of people haven't. Which highlights again, how on earth is motorway driving still not part of the UK Driving Test? At least for the past couple of years you can at least have lessons on the motorway, but there's no compulsion I believe.
 

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The judge in the recent case (I think the accident near Sheffield?) said he had no idea how to use a smart motorway. And I imagine a lot of people haven't. Which highlights again, how on earth is motorway driving still not part of the UK Driving Test? At least for the past couple of years you can at least have lessons on the motorway, but there's no compulsion I believe.
You have to remember that many people do not know how to use a normal motorway either.

There are some issues with smart motorways, the main being emergency services access to any issues.
That Judge did homeself no favors with his comment "Do not know how to use a smart motorway" Even the wife of one of the deceased was surprised by his verdict, despite years of highlighting the issues.

But until driving standards improve we will see more of these. Drivers simply not taking notice of what is in front and the surrounding area.
Sadly there are many cases of vehicles stopped on the hard shoulder being hit from behind.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
My crude research produced the following.

There are 2300 miles of motorways in the UK including smart motorways
There are 100 deaths per year on motorways
Hence deaths per 100 miles = 4.2 per year

There are 400 miles of smart motorways in the UK
There have been 38 deaths on smart motorways in 5 years = 7.6 deaths per year.
Hence deaths per 100 miles = 1.9 per year

It seems to me that smart motorways are reducing the overall death rate which would come down even further if better monitoring of stationary vehicles on all motorways was improved and people would evacuate their stationary vehicles and get to the other side of the safety barrier - even in smart refuges
 

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In my opinion the standard of driving on motorways is, at best, poor. You don't have to be on a motorway long before you see some idiot tailgating, undertaking, crap lane discipline or using the centre lane as if it is their own private domain (we call them CLOD's - Centre Lane Only Driver's (you know who you are)). Another issue are drivers who seem incapable of driving to the conditions. For some reason, that is beyond me, some drivers seem to think they must drive at 70mph plus, no matter how heavy the traffic is, or what the weather conditions are.
I often wonder when some drivers last read the Highway Code, probably when they last passed their test, there seems to be many who don't understand the overhead gantry signs.
Add into the mix all the distractions a modern car can provide and you have a lethal mix. So why is anyone surprised that smart motorways have become an issue?
Okay I know, I've used a big broad brush approach, there are those amongst us who use motorways properly and with care, and I doff my cap to all those ladies and gentlemen. But I fear drivers like that are getting fewer.
I have finished my rant, I feel better now.
 

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My crude research produced the following.

There are 2300 miles of motorways in the UK including smart motorways
There are 100 deaths per year on motorways
Hence deaths per 100 miles = 4.2 per year

There are 400 miles of smart motorways in the UK
There have been 38 deaths on smart motorways in 5 years = 7.6 deaths per year.
Hence deaths per 100 miles = 1.9 per year

It seems to me that smart motorways are reducing the overall death rate which would come down even further if better monitoring of stationary vehicles on all motorways was improved and people would evacuate their stationary vehicles and get to the other side of the safety barrier - even in smart refuges
Which when you add in the Smart sections are where traffic is at its worst/busiest, you would expect to see the rate a bit higher.
Due to the "I'm in the 3rd lane & need to get off at this junction" so just cut across all lanes with no thought for anyone else.

All Smart sections require is better monitoring to ensure that 1st lane is closed as soon as a car stops, but does have a issue that if you have passed the last gantry then you will not get the warning.
So some flashing arrow signs every 100 yds at the side could be added to ensure you have no excuse to miss moving to lane 2, but then again if you can't see a stopped car from the high vantage point in a wagon, are they going to take notice of anything else....
 

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I have finished my rant, I feel better now.
:giggle:

I love how motorways get you somewhere quickly and effortlessly (as of course they were designed to do) but I don't find any pleasure from driving on them. As if driving in straight line wasn't bad enough they are fully of incompetent / lazy / aggressive drivers. Now I just set the cruise control so that all I'm overtaking is HGVs!

Perhaps if more employers are enlightened post-Covid, we can reduce the pressure on motorways by getting those of who can work-from-home to spend less time on pointless commutes. Leave the motorways for goods and those who have no choice but to travel. May be that way smart motorways will need less time at full lane running.
 
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:giggle:

I love how motorways get you somewhere quickly and effortlessly (as of course they were designed to do) but I don't find any pleasure from driving on them. As if driving in straight line wasn't bad enough they are fully of incompetent / lazy / aggressive drivers. Now I just set the cruise control so that all I'm overtaking is HGVs!

Perhaps if more employers are enlightened post-Covid, we can reduce the pressure on motorways by getting those of who can work-from-home to spend less time on pointless commutes. Leave the motorways for goods and those who have no choice but to travel. May be that way smart motorways will need less time at full lane running.
Wait until they start charging VED by pay by mile, they will be empty then ;)
 

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Wait until they start charging VED by pay by mile, they will be empty then ;)
I noticed that when I lived in France. All the time the Suyoroute tolls were reasonable they were popular snd busy. Once the French government discovered the cash cow drivers diverted them. They went from being totally reasonable to adding £50 each way to the cost of coming back to the UK. Tow a caravan? Forget it


Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
 

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The main issue is the volume of traffic (excluding Covid situation) as we are a small island with a large population compared to say France and Spain.
When we used motorways to the West Country, even using the M4 took sometimes 4 hours or more for 200 mile journey. That's because whenever there was an issue, roadworks, accident or whatever, everything comes to a standstill as there's few opportunities to exit.
When we drove to the south of Spain, at legal speed limits we were able to do over 400 miles in about 7 hours, so not much higher average speed, BUT the stress was minute compared with M25 and M4.
You could set cruise control and simply wonder whether the speck in the distance would overtake you before you reached the speck ahead of you and a few clicks either way allowed either you or the guy behind to overtake with no issues.
It's the sheer volume of cars that make drivers act stupidly, darting here there or anywhere which then annoys those around them. And there's always someone ready to "pick a fight" with their vehicle if they think you've annoyed them often simply by being there!
 
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Interesting short dashcam video here
Very scary, no 'red cross' and no speed limit showing. And as an aside Lincolnshire, despite being the 2nd biggest county, does not have any motorway (the M180) is in North Lincolnshire and the A1 is dual carriageway, not motorway. The only motorways I use are the M69, M6, M5 and the M4 when I travel to Cardiff (used to!) of which sections of the M5 and M6 are smart. One of them (?) is controlled so the hard shoulder is sometimes lane 1, sometimes a slip road, and sometimes a hard shoulder. I hate this as drivers who know the motorway often zoom across from lane 4 to lane 1 without much regard and God help you if you're behind an artic when the lane changes from lane 1 to a slip road and lane 2 is nose to tail busy....
 

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Interesting short dashcam video here
Very scary, no 'red cross' and no speed limit showing. And as an aside Lincolnshire, despite being the 2nd biggest county, does not have any motorway (the M180) is in North Lincolnshire and the A1 is dual carriageway, not motorway. The only motorways I use are the M69, M6, M5 and the M4 when I travel to Cardiff (used to!) of which sections of the M5 and M6 are smart. One of them (?) is controlled so the hard shoulder is sometimes lane 1, sometimes a slip road, and sometimes a hard shoulder. I hate this as drivers who know the motorway often zoom across from lane 4 to lane 1 without much regard and God help you if you're behind an artic when the lane changes from lane 1 to a slip road and lane 2 is nose to tail busy....
Just shows how alert you have to be, any distraction there and it would have been fatal. Kudos to the truck drivers!
 

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That video shows exactly why you need to get out of the car fast.
 
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