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The Government has halted the rollout of smart motorways across the UK due to growing safety concerns.

Official figures show there have been 38 deaths recorded on Smart Roads between 2015-2019, with more reported in the years since.

The government has halted the expansion of smart motorways amid safety concerns


The government has halted the expansion of smart motorways amid safety concernsCredit: PA

Families and loved ones of those who have passed away has been mobilized for ministers to urgently address safety on UK motorways.

Now, the government has agreed to put its plan on hold and has said it will wait until it has five years’ worth of safety data for existing smart motorway sections.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also committed 900 million pounds for safety measures.

This includes £390 million to install additional emergency areas.

He said: “While our early data shows that smart motorways are among the safest in the UK, it is important that we go further to ensure people feel safer using them.”

Here we explain everything you need to know smart highway is, why are there security concerns and changes to the deployment plan.

How many people have died on smart car roads?

It’s unclear exactly how many people have died on the Smart Road, and the most recent government figures are from 2019.

At the time, the data showed that 38 people had died on the Smart Road between 2014 and 2019.

However, Labor’s analysis of Highway England information suggests the real toll is much higher, with 63 deaths.

Even so, the officially reported number is still 38.

Unfortunately, we know the true rate will be higher, as several deaths have been reported since 2019.

What is a smart car road?

There are three types of smart motorways in the UK:

  • All running lanes (ARL)
  • Under control
  • Stiff shoulder movements.

ARL means there are highways don’t have a hard shoulder, the driver must instead rely on the Emergency Refuge Area.

Smart motorways often use technology to manage traffic flow during busy times – for example, by changing speed limits.

Dynamic hard-shoulder roads can also increase road capacity by opening hard-shoulders at busy times.

The first smart car road map was used on the M42 in 2006 and there are now over 236 miles of smart motorway in the UK.

Are smart roads dangerous?

The government has described smart motorways as “among the safest roads in the UK” even as it decided to halt the rollout due to safety concerns.

There have been at least 38 deaths on smart car roads since they were introduced in the UK, although the number is likely higher.

In fact, the death rate on so-called smart highways is up to a third higher than on conventional highways with hard shoulders, officials revealed.

And last year, The Sun newspaper revealed that The highways are considered very dangerous, AA will not allow crime squads to stop on them.

The number of near misses on a segment of the reconfigured M25 outside London has increased 20-fold to 1,485 in the five years since the stiff shoulder was removed.

How have government plans around smart motorways changed?

The government has said it will halt plans to expand smart car roads amid growing safety concerns.

These plans will be withheld at least until there is enough 5-year safety data for plans introduced before 2020.

After this point, the government will evaluate the data and make a decision on next steps.

It also plans to invest £390m to install more than 150 additional emergency zones to give drivers more places to stop if they get stuck.

This figure would represent a roughly 50% increase in stopovers by 2025.

A further £510m funding will go towards other measures, such as stopped vehicle detection and specific reservation barriers in the centre.

Finally, National Highways will suspend the conversion of dynamic hard shoulder (DHS) roads – where hard-shoulder roads are open at times of heavy traffic – into all-car lanes.

How to stay safe on smart highways

Highways England offers the following advice for smart motorway driving:

  • Never drive under a red “X”
  • Hold to the speed limit displayed on the rig
  • A solid white line indicates stiff shoulder – do not drive in it unless instructed
  • Broken white line indicates normal driving lane
  • Use hiding areas in an emergency if there is no burden
  • Turn on hazard lights if you are damaged
Claire Mercer speaks out after her husband died on a smart highway

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