In the UK, the cheaper but more dangerous “smart highway”

In the UK, the cheaper but more dangerous “smart highway”

The British government is taking a break from its development “Smart Highway”, “While our preliminary data suggests that smart motorways are among the safest roads in the UK, it is important that we move forward to ensure that people feel safe using them”, announced this Wednesday, January 12 morning, Transport Minister, Grant Shapps. His department will study data for the last five years related to safety on these particular lanes to see how to proceed.

600 km of smart highways

These smart highways were introduced on a trial basis in 1995, before becoming more widespread during the 2000s. Now they cover a distance of 600 kms. His principle is simple: Motorway managers can open up access to the hard shoulder when traffic gets too intense. On some sections, the rigid shoulders have also been removed and emergency stop places have been created to allow vehicles to be parked there.

To avoid accidents if a vehicle breaks down, motorways are constantly monitored and drivers are warned to close lanes by electronic signs distributed along the roadside. The motivation of the authorities for these smart highways is above all economic: the cost of widening the highway to add one lane is 50 million euros per kilometer, compared to 3 to 9 million for the deployment of these smart highways. So they will save more than 1.5 billion euros.

high profile deaths

Yet preventing their deployment is linked to security issues. Many of the deaths have been widely documented in the media. Exclusively of Alexandru Murgenu and Jason Mercer in June 2019. After a minor collision, the two men stopped to prepare a report. Behind them, a lorry driver had not noticed that their lane had been closed to traffic and therefore hit their vehicles, killing them both immediately. Since then, Jason’s wife, Claire Mercer, has been campaigning to end the existence of these smart highways.

Between 2014 and 2019, thirty-eight people died on these smart highways, and the number of lapses on one of these stretches nearly increased twenty-fold. Even if officers assured they were safe, many drivers testified to being in danger due to the non-automatic closure of their lanes after they broke down. Others are calling for the creation of more emergency stop spaces, which are considered too far away.

Inquired by a parliamentary committee in October 2019, Jim O’Sullivan, the boss of Highways England, the public body responsible for the operation and maintenance of English motorways, recognized the difficulty of their use. He estimated that the classes “dynamic”Where the hard shoulder can also be used as a traffic lane, there are “The bus is too complicated to use: some people stop there when it’s open to traffic, others use it out of habit when it stops”,

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