A Class Of Its Own

New smart motorways see rise in serious collisions

Some recently upgraded sensible motorways have noticed a increase in severe collisions due to the fact staying finished.

A freshly revealed report from Highways England masking 8 new sensible motorways shows that 4 noticed severe collisions go up in their initial yr due to the fact staying finished.

Stretches of road that noticed rises in severe collisions – which Highways England describes as “one in which at least a person man or woman is very seriously wounded but no man or woman (other than a confirmed suicide) is killed” – involve the M25 (junctions 5 to seven and 23 to 27), the M1 (junctions 39 to forty two), the M6 (junctions 10A to 13)

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In spite of this, lethal collisions lowered on six of the 8 sensible motorways, as did slight collisions. Fatal collisions remained at zero on a person road.

Nicholas Lyes, head of roadways policy at the RAC, identified as the data “very concerning”, telling the New Civil Engineer, which analysed the report: “The findings will not be a shock to the bulk of motorists who feel the removing of the really hard shoulder compromises security in the celebration of a breakdown.”

Smart motorways: breakdowns cause a month’s worthy of of lane closures

The information that dymanic sensible motorways will be shut down comes following investigation discovered that damaged-down vehicles triggered sensible motorway lanes to be closed for extra than a month over a two-yr period of time.

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From August 2017 to Oct 2019, motorway lanes were being closed for 945 hrs – equal to 39 days – concerning Junction two and Junction 4a of the M3 thanks to vehicles breaking down in a live lane, according to a Liberty of Information ask for to Highways England made by the AA.

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There were being a overall of two,227 breakdowns on the extend of all-lane working (ALR) sensible motorways for the duration of the two-yr period of time, with each individual a person closing a lane for an typical of twenty five minutes.

More than the exact period of time, there were being 318 hrs of delays triggered by 271 website traffic collisions, with lanes staying closed for an typical of a person hour and 10 minutes each individual time.

Other issues – like obstructions, infrastructure defects and fires – contributed to a overall of two,802 incidents over the two-yr period of time and noticed motorway lanes near for a overall of one,451 hrs – or sixty days.

Incident style

Selection of incidents

Complete time closed (hrs:minutes.seconds)

Ordinary closure time per incident (hrs:minutes.seconds)



945:twenty five.27

00:twenty five.28

Targeted traffic collision






sixty seven:52.10

00:twenty five.46


eighty four



Infrastructure defect



02:forty three.thirty



forty five:forty five.36


Animal on network




Deserted automobile


08:forty one.37


Pedestrian on network








Suicide/tried suicide




Climate conditions







00:twenty five.37

Strengthening security was not a “primary goal” for sensible motorways, files reveal

Strengthening road security was not a “principal goal” when sensible motorways were being initial launched, according to a report generated in 2012 by the Highways Company – Highways England’s predecessor – which thought of the provision of additional crisis refuge locations (ERAs) surrounding a fatality hotspot on the M1 north of Nottingham.

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The document stated: “The principal ambitions for the scheme do not involve bettering security and the road consumer security goal is to be certain that the scheme is no significantly less safe than the security baseline.”

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The AA, which uncovered the document, criticised this goal for staying “unambitious and complacent”.

The report shows the Highways Company understood there was a risk that the amount of vehicles stopping in live lanes would boost, and set out two selections to mitigate this. The initial would have noticed the amount of ERAs on the extend of road enhanced from 8 to 10 and an typical spacing of one,543 metres, at a price tag of concerning £0.35m and £0.7m.

The 2nd selection was to boost the amount of ERAs to fourteen and an typical spacing of one,304 metres, costing £1m to £2m. The report explained both of these selections would final result in a “small internet lessen in risk to road users”, but in spite of this no motion was taken.

With an typical of two,five hundred metres spacing, the Highways Company approximated concerning twenty five.99 per cent and 26.one per cent breakdowns would come about in live lanes in reality, the current charge on this sort of stretches is as superior as 38 per cent.

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In accordance to the AA, there were being 5 fatalities on the sixteen-mile extend of the M1 concerning junctions thirty and 35a from September 2018 to December 2019.

Exceptional: Smart motorway pace cameras present sixty-2nd grace period of time

Drivers using sensible motorways have sixty seconds to lessen their pace following a reduction in the variable pace limit is displayed on the overhead gantries, Auto Specific can reveal. Soon after the a person-minute grace period of time, pace cameras start enforcement at the new signposted limit.

Responding to a Liberty of Information (FoI) ask for, Highways England – the Govt-owned company that operates England’s Strategic Road Network of motorways and key A roadways – confirmed that motorists are presented a a person-minute grace period of time.

“Following a change in the pace displayed by signals there is a sixty-2nd ‘grace period’ ahead of HADECS3 cameras start enforcement, supplying time for motorists to adapt to the new obligatory pace limit, especially when pace limits are decreased thanks to gradual-going or queuing website traffic up ahead,” the organisation explained. “This presents motorists time to gradual down and minimizes the need to have for braking sharply.”

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Smart motorways have a default pace limit of 70mph, but Highways England is capable to lower the limit to sixty, fifty or 40mph when operatives deem it important. When this happens, the new limit is displayed on overhead gantries and enforced by HADECS3 pace cameras, from time to time referred to colloquially as “stealth” cameras thanks to their staying tiny, grey units that are a lot more difficult to place than that more substantial yellow Gatso and Truvelo cameras utilized elsewhere.

Smart motorways: breakdown recovery companies will not cease for vehicles in closed ‘red X’ lanes

Recovery companies are not authorized to cease and enable motorists whose vehicles have damaged down on sensible motorway lanes that have been closed with ‘red X’ symptoms. In its place, workers from companies like the AA, Inexperienced Flag and RAC will have to wait around for police or Highways England vehicles to bodily near the lane or tow the automobile to a refuge spot, according to official guidance.

The ‘best apply guidelines’ from the Survive Group – formed of senior police officers, Highways England and all key recovery companies – suggests breakdown operatives should really “Never work in a live lane of a motorway lane until the lane has been closed by a Police automobile, HE [Highways England] Targeted traffic Officer automobile or Effects Safety Auto…Do not depend on a crimson X closure signal.”

Even though it is illegal to generate in closed ‘red X’ lanes, 180,000 motorists been given warning letters in the 18 months concerning 2017 and summer months 2018 for the offence – which is now enforced by cameras and success in 3 penalty factors and a £100 great. 

The information follows a damning Highways England report staying unearthed by the AA, which discovered breaking down in the live lane of a sensible motorway for the duration of off-peak hrs is 216 per cent extra unsafe than undertaking so on a regular motorway.

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