Thursday, 20 February 2020

Not so smart motorways

As we all know by now, smart motorways are not having a good press. 

An HGV driver has described a harrowing-near miss on the M1 ‘smart motorway’ in Derbyshire, as he called for hard shoulders to be reinstated.

The revelation that 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the last five years has renewed concerns about their safety - particularly when the hard shoulder is in use as an extra driving lane. So what should you do if you break down on a smart motorway and need to pull over in an emergency?

The number of people with personal anecdotes highlighting the dangers created by smart motorways must run into millions.

For example a friend of mine recently told me of an incident where a member of his family broke down on a ‘smart’ section of the M1 with three children in the car.

Only yesterday we passed a car broken down on a ‘smart’ section of the M1. The driver had pulled in as close to the crash barrier as he could and put his hazard lights on. The best he could do, but the offside wheels of the car were still in the inside lane of a busy motorway.

Nobody could get out of the car on the passenger side because of the crash barrier. The best they could do would be to climb out of the windows. Otherwise any occupants would have to get out of the car and in doing so step into the inside lane of the motorway. It was raining too.

The anecdotes pile up as they were bound to and it isn’t easy to understand why this was not foreseen. Or maybe it was. Yet as things stand a constant trickle of negative, sometimes horrific stories are bound to hit the headlines.


Sam Vega said...

It would be useful to know how many of the deaths were due to them being smart motorways, as opposed to accidents that would have happened anyway.

The scariest motoring incident happened to me on a "dumb" motorway in the 90s. Due to an incident ahead, all 3 lanes of the M27 near Southampton came to a halt. We sat there for a few minutes. Then it all started again, except for me. I turned the ignition, and nothing. No ignition, lights, hazards, anything, sat in the middle lane. The traffic soon picked up speed, and was passing me on both sides; to the left, at fifty, and to the right, at seventy. In my mirror I could see panicking drivers bearing down on me, and having to swerve either way to get round. Lights, horns, little reduction in speed. I don't think having hazards on would have helped much.

What to do? Try to push it across the slow lane on my own? Wait for a gap and sprint clear and watch the inevitable pile-up from the bank?

I was saved by the driver of a van with flashing lights who blocked two lanes behind me while we pushed the car onto the hard shoulder.

To this day I don't know what the best course of action would have been. I suppose a motorway patrol cop would know.

Michael said...

Kerb design has come on in recent years, but the basic requirement for laying a kerb to do either of two things is still important.

The high, square face on the road is used to 'bounce' vehicles back into the road, and then they do not vanish over a cliff, is one way, a sloping kerb which allows a vehicle to ride over the kerb and get out of the way of oncoming traffic is another.

The nerd in me brings this detail to your esteemed blog, and you will probably curse me even more for this info...

wiggiatlarge said...

Behind all this are public servants ? who having debated long and hard come up with these ridiculous plans that are not tested or proven, we have the same here on a new by pass with roundabout markings that are anything but simple to understand and have caused accidents and much derisory local comment, they serve no purpose other than to confuse.
But as with Highways England they refuse to admit they were wrong in their actions and play with figures to put them in not such a bad light, no local or national government department or individual will ever put their hands up and admit they are wrong, they would rather have people die they really would.

A K Haart said...

Sam - that sounds seriously scary. The worst for me was a rear wheel falling off on the M1 but fortunately it jammed in the wheel arch and I was able to steer onto the hard shoulder.

I think the problem with smart motorways is perception, something stats won't really alter. Many hundreds of drivers, possibly thousands will have seen the plight of that car we saw on the M1. It stays with you.

Scrobs - your link also has some info on vibrator tables but I'm not sure if I ought to know what they are.

Wiggia - "they would rather have people die they really would" yes because they must surely have known that smart motorways would cause deaths.