With the government pledging £1.5 million to fund the smart motorways project, we decided to ask drivers of the UK what their opinions were on these new roads. For those that aren’t aware, a smart motorway is meant to ease congestion by using active traffic management techniques to control flow with variable speed limits and by increasing capacity by using the hard shoulder at busy times.
We had a great response with over 1,000 drivers sharing their opinion on smart motorways. The majority (41%) agreed that smart motorways were the right step for easing congestion on UK roads, but many (45%) believed the government’s £1.5 billion handout should be spent elsewhere instead.
Smart motorway funding should be put into NHS
Suggestions for where the money should be spent included improving existing roads (49%) and giving it to the NHS to improve healthcare (30%). One participant highlighted that “1.5 billion pounds could be better spent in areas which have seen many cuts recently (NHS, education, etc.)”.
Our own Stephen Gill says: “With the Brexit result still settling, and people unsure about the future of the NHS and other UK institutions, it is no surprise that participants are suggesting the £1.5 billion be spent on these areas, which are seen as suffering. However, it may be a case that people are not aware of the benefits of smart motorways, as the survey also highlights that there is a clear lack of knowledge amongst the general public.”
More information should be provided on smart motorways
The proportion of participants who were unsure about whether they support the creation of more smart motorways outweighed those who refused to show their support (39% to 20%).
“It’s clear to see that a large selection of people in the UK has limited knowledge on smart motorways and the possible benefits they bring, including smoother traffic flows, more reliable journey times, fewer collisions and less noise and harmful pollution. However, there are still concerns over the opening of the hard shoulder at peak times and whether this could impact emergency service’s travel time to an incident.”
Opening hard shoulder up could prove deadly
In our survey, 49% of participants agreed that it was a good idea to open up the hard shoulder to traffic during busy periods. However, according to the AA Populus poll of 20,845 drivers, 80% of drivers think that opening up the hard shoulder has made motorways more dangerous than four years ago and even refers to them as ‘death zones’.
The AA has raised concerns to Transport Secretary Chris Grayling over a lack of lay-bys when the hard shoulder is used as a running lane. Edmund King OBE says: “If a car breaks down without a sight of a lay-by it is likely to stop in a live running lane where it will be at increased risk of being hit from behind. Breaking down in a live running lane with trucks thundering up behind you is every driver’s worst nightmare. The official advice is to dial 999 which just shows how dangerous the situation can be.”