How safe are smart motorways?

Using hard shoulders to create additional lanes to improve traffic flow – especially at peak times – was always going to come to the top of ministers’ in-boxes. But there are real safety concerns: a recent BBC TV programme revealed that 38 people have been killed on the UK’s smart motorways in the last five years.

The attraction of such schemes was obvious: they held out the prospect of creating more capacity at considerably less cost than building new lanes, together with all the attendant disruption such extensions invariably create. However, after just a few years’ use, the whole concept is now under review by the UK government – and the BBC Panorama figures have added fuel to the doubters’ argument. Motoring organisations and safety groups have raised concerns that drivers and breakdown assistance teams are at risk.