Government to implement more lay-bys on smart motorways due to safety fears
More emergency refuge areas are planned following scares for stranded motorists
EXTRA LAY-BYS WILL be introduced on smart motorways amid growing fears about the lack of hard shoulders on such major roads.
Highways England said it will install a number of additional emergency refuge areas in locations where the hard shoulder is used to ease congestion during peak traffic times.
The pledge follows a number of near-misses reported in the national media, in which people have been stranded in live lanes of motorways with no hard shoulder, no lane closure and no change to the speed limit.
Highways England also promised that it will reduce the maximum distance between lay-bys in future schemes from 1.5 miles to one mile where possible to provide “greater reassurance to road users”.
Parts of motorways such as the M1, M4, M6 and M25 already feature ‘all-lane running’ at times, and another 480 miles are planned.
In a recent AA study, 79% of 20,000 respondents said motorways are now more dangerous compared with four years ago because of the removal of the hard shoulder.
AA president Edmund King described the increase in the number of lay-bys as “victory for common sense”. He said: “Improving capacity and easing congestion on our motorways is key for the economy, but not at the expense of safety.”
MP Lilian Greenwood, from the Transport Select Committee, said the AA survey demonstrates that the public still has “serious concerns” about the safety of all-lane running schemes.
“The permanent conversion of the hard shoulder into a running lane on our busiest motorways is a radical change for motorists and creates a real challenge,” she said. “In June 2016, our predecessor committee warned the Government not to press ahead with all-lane running schemes while major safety concerns existed. They still exist.”
Greenwood added that plans to reduce the distance between emergency lay-bys to every mile still fall “far short of the committee’s recommendation that the areas should be spaced at 500-800 metres apart” and urged Highways England to review that decision.
Meanwhile, from spring, drivers will be fined for flouting smart motorway laws. So far, 80,000 warning letters have already been issued since 2016, a third of which relate to drivers ignoring closed lane warnings signified by a red X sign on overhead gantries. Alongside the imminent introduction of fines, roadside cameras will also be trialled to automatically detect illegal lane usage.
The offence falls under the categories of driving without due care and attention or dangerous or reckless driving, with penalties ranging from three points to disqualification.
The most likely penalty is a fixed fine of £100 and three points.
Maximum distance between lay-bys will drop to one mile