RAC welcomes smart motorway safety review

The RAC has welcomed Highways England’s review into the distance between emergency rescue areas on smart motorways.

The Commons’ Transport Committee heard from Dave Gregory and Richard Goddard from the European Rescue and Recovery Initiative Committee, as well as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Transport Andrew Jones MP, Jon Griffith, the deputy director, Road Investment Strategy, at the Department for Transport and Mike Wilson, chief operations officer at Highways England.

It wanted to know whether recovery operators including the RAC are unduly affected by the loss of a permanent hard shoulder. Subsequently, Highways England has suggested a review of the spacing between refuge areas.

The organisation’s head of external affairs, Pete Williams said, “We have consistently raised the issue about the lengthy spacing between emergency rescue areas (ERAs) on all lane running smart motorways, so it is extremely good news for motorists’ safety that distances between them will be reviewed.

“A study of RAC breakdowns on the all lane running sections of the M25 found that only 42% of motorists who broke down were aware that ERAs existed, while only 28% could see an ERA from where they broke down. Clearly this indicates that better signage of ERAs should be a priority on existing and future stretches of smart motorways.

“We also welcome the announcement that there will be a public information programme to educate drivers on how to use smart motorways, which is clearly needed. With no hard shoulder, the safety of a motorist who has broken depends on other drivers complying with red ‘X’s that indicate a lane is closed. While 92% red ‘X’ compliance appears high, there has to be a real concern about the remaining 8% that ignore the overhead signage thus increasing the potential for a serious accident.

“Every step should be taken to ensure that motorways do not lose their status as the UK’s safest roads.”

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Dave Mordaunt

On an up hill the ERA’s should be spaced no greater than 500m apart, on a down hill then may be 1Km apart. That way I think you’ll get better public support for dynamic hardshoulder running and all lane running.

If a driver, especially one with children ‘on board’, experiences a ‘blow-out’ or engine failure , then any distance approaching 1 km. is a very long way. Regardless of gradient the spacing should not be more than 500m. and even then I am sure it would be a ‘hair-raising’ experience.