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How do we make Smart Motorways safer?

Former Community Member
Former Community Member

Smart Motorways bring significant benefits, as they have been designed and implemented to address recurrent congestion on heavily used sections of motorways. We submitted a response to the Transport Select Committee on the roll-out and safety of smart motorways.


Our view is that firstly, safety can be improved by reducing the number of times vehicles stop on motorways and then improving how they are detected, and other drivers then warned and instructed, as illustrated in this diagram. 

72ba677680cffc513876a145d8a88a22-huge-ssd4011-smart-motorways-infographic-v4.jpg
Smart Motorways Infographic.pdf


In order to achieve this we believe that the Government should:



  • Think users: through more training and increasing vehicle roadworthiness.

  • Make use of what is there already: using sat nav for in-vehicle messaging and services such as Waze, to alert drivers.

  • Safeguard the future: through learning lessons from other transport modes.


We have also written a blog on this topic with more information: How do we make Smart Motorways safer?


We are interested in your thoughts on making Smart Motorways more safe, our proposed solutions, or if there is anything that we've missed. Please log in to your IET Community account to share your comments.


  • It would be a good thing if the Highways Agency implemented what they promised to do when "smart motorways" were introduced:
    • Frequent emergency laybys to pull off into.

    • Automatic detection of broken down cars by radar.

    • Automatic signage to warn drivers of broken down vehicles ahead.


    Instead they missed out the laybys if they were too much effort (e.g. if the motorway was on an embankment), and left the broken down vehicle detection and warning signs as something to do later, long after they have turned the hard shoulder into a running lane.


    I don't think adding more technology is going to help what is a fundamentally dangerous system.  There's no point in broadcasting messages to satnav systems if there is no guarantee that the following vehicles even have satnavs that are capable of receiving those messages.


    What it needs is for the system to be done right in the first place.  Warnings and lane closures indicated to drivers by overhead signs.  Automatic red light cameras to catch all the people who still run through the red lights, and plenty of publicity when people are convicted for doing so.
  • Will the changing work and commuter patterns started by the Covid outbreak make Smart Motorways obsolete?
  • There is the point that most of the automated motorway signage about lane closures, animals in the road, ice etc are left switched on long after the hazard has passed, and this is a very poor practice, and not at all erring on the side of safety.

    There is little point in slowing the traffic for a non-event, after all the whole aim is to keep it moving. And you are teaching drivers not to take it seriously. 

    So a sign saying breakdown 1 mile ahead, or xx metres ahead is useful, you know what to expect and when, but turn it off as soon as the road is clear, not 30 mins later.


    A sign that in effect might as well say 'take care, unknown hazard at unknown distance ahead, or probably not there at all really' is asking to be ignored.

    And will be treated with contempt.

    M.
  • We are not that far from self drive capable vehicles  becoming common, perhaps humans should not be in control. 

    Motorway could become swarms increasing capacity and safety. The action today requires motorway sensors and probably a standardised protocol for how the motorway speaks to vehicles and vice versa. 


  • Peter Tillotson:

    We are not that far from self drive capable vehicles  becoming common, perhaps humans should not be in control. 

    Motorway could become swarms increasing capacity and safety. The action today requires motorway sensors and probably a standardised protocol for how the motorway speaks to vehicles and vice versa. 


     


    To make "smart motorways" safer just ban them. They are death traps.


    The term "smart motorway" is an oxymoron, like saying safe electric shock.


    Z.


  • IET SEP Editorial:

    Smart Motorways bring significant benefits, as they have been designed and implemented to address recurrent congestion on heavily used sections of motorways. We submitted a response to the Transport Select Committee on the roll-out and safety of smart motorways.


    Our view is that firstly, safety can be improved by reducing the number of times vehicles stop on motorways and then improving how they are detected, and other drivers then warned and instructed, as illustrated in this diagram. 

    72ba677680cffc513876a145d8a88a22-huge-ssd4011-smart-motorways-infographic-v4.jpg
    Smart Motorways Infographic.pdf


    In order to achieve this we believe that the Government should:



    • Think users: through more training and increasing vehicle roadworthiness.

    • Make use of what is there already: using sat nav for in-vehicle messaging and services such as Waze, to alert drivers.

    • Safeguard the future: through learning lessons from other transport modes.


    We have also written a blog on this topic with more information: How do we make Smart Motorways safer?


    We are interested in your thoughts on making Smart Motorways more safer, our proposed solutions, or if there is anything that we've missed. Please log in to your IET Community account to share your comments.


     


    "We are interested in your thoughts on making Smart Motorways more safer,"


    Safer or more safe surely?


    It can't be done.


    Z.


  • Simon Barker:

    It would be a good thing if the Highways Agency implemented what they promised to do when "smart motorways" were introduced:
    • Frequent emergency laybys to pull off into.

    • Automatic detection of broken down cars by radar.

    • Automatic signage to warn drivers of broken down vehicles ahead.


    Instead they missed out the laybys if they were too much effort (e.g. if the motorway was on an embankment), and left the broken down vehicle detection and warning signs as something to do later, long after they have turned the hard shoulder into a running lane.


    I don't think adding more technology is going to help what is a fundamentally dangerous system.  There's no point in broadcasting messages to satnav systems if there is no guarantee that the following vehicles even have satnavs that are capable of receiving those messages.


    What it needs is for the system to be done right in the first place.  Warnings and lane closures indicated to drivers by overhead signs.  Automatic red light cameras to catch all the people who still run through the red lights, and plenty of publicity when people are convicted for doing so.


    Simon is spot on, Highways Agency should be doing what there were supposed to in the first place, and not getting distracted by fancy high tech solutions to a problem they have created.


    I would add that signs need to be updated quicker as out of date signs brings the whole system into disrepute.


  • They are a Death Trap.

    I was on the M1 near Bedford in the all lane running when a car in front of me in the outside lane had a tyre blow out (not uncommon) he instinctively  veered to the left and with no hard shoulder so nearly caused a multiple pile up. Since then I have rerouted all my trips to avoid the Smart Motorway sections.


    Someone has done a cost/benefit calculation weighing up the cost of adding real capacity versus the economic cost of say 1000 extra deaths on the roads and it no doubt looks like a clever thing to do, if you are an accountant.


    I guess this and all the other reviews will be a sham.

    Shapps expressed concern in March 2020, and a week later signed off another contract, released on a Friday night and missed by the press. 

    Maybe it will take a minibus full of school kids to be wiped out before the political pressure is such that they are abandoned.


  • Many responses, including the IET's, have addressed the rational issues of risk quantification and the technical issues of sensor performance and data processing.  Until recently, that has also been my approach.  However, I'm struck by the individual stories and perceptions.  It's true that "data is not the plural of anecdote" but I do think that public perception has to be given much more weight. For that reason, My view on Smart Motorways is now much more nuanced and I do not believe that there should be any further roll-out for the foreseeable future.
  • ~I think all it needs is the lay-by areas to increased in length until they become a continuous stripe along beside the left hand lane, so there is always somewhere for breakdowns to go, and an area that can be used by police etc as an emergency access lane when there is an accident.

    Then the fact the signs do not come on when you breakdown in any lane but the LH one and the fact that when they do come on they stay on for ages after the road is clear, will be less important.

    Mike.