‘Smart’ motorways show driver ignorance

Traffic queues  towards Brighouse caused by a tanker fire, on the westbound M62.
Traffic queues towards Brighouse caused by a tanker fire, on the westbound M62.

THERE IS a lack of awareness among motorists of the emergency refuge areas on smart motorways, a study has found.

The lay-bys are positioned at the side of motorways where the hard shoulder has been converted into a running lane for traffic.

But an RAC poll of more than 2,000 drivers found that the majority are unaware of what the areas are, and almost two-thirds do not know what they should do if they stopped in one.

Highways England guidance is for the emergency stopping places to be no more than 2.5 kilometres – 1.6 miles – apart on smart motorways. But motoring organisations complain that this is insufficient to avoid broken-down vehicles being forced to stop in live running lanes, putting them at risk of being hit from behind.

The Department for Transport has been keen to press ahead with smart motorway projects, which are already in operation on sections of the M62 around Calderdale, although not yet for the full route as far as Manchester, the M42, M1, M6, M4 and M5.

The RAC’s chief engineer David Bizley stressed that it is “essential” motorists know how to use emergency refuge areas, and park in the correct location before leaving the vehicle, using the emergency telephone and standing behind safety barriers.

Highways England officials are conducting a review of the lay-bys and their safe use.