The challenge for Highways England alongside smart motorway upgrades, is to effectively communicate to the travelling public that all lane running requires a different mindset, according to the RAC Foundation.
Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “We welcome this acceleration in the retrofitting programme. Whilst the casualty numbers suggest smart motorways may, overall, be safer than conventional motorways with a hard shoulder that doesn’t mean they can’t be safer still.
“Ministers acknowledge a gap remains between what the data suggests about the safety of smart motorways and what many drivers believe to be the case: the numbers mean nothing if it’s your car that breaks down and you can’t reach an emergency refuge.
“The challenge for Highways England is not just doing the upgrade work but communicating to road users that all lane running requires a different mindset from drivers – only then will they start to turn public opinion around.”
The Department for Transport announced this week that no new section of All Lane Running (ALR) motorway will be opened unless it has stopped-vehicle detection, the government has announced.
Ministers also say that existing ALR motorways will be retrofitted with the technology to detect stationary vehicles by the end of September 2022, six months earlier than planned.
The news comes as the government publishes the first year progress report on the 18-point action plan which accompanied a stocktake of smart motorways ordered by the transport secretary.
Using data collected from ALR motorways over five years from 2015 to 2019 inclusive the DfT has calculated that “drivers on a conventional motorway are 33% more likely to be involved in a fatal accident than drivers on an ALR motorway.