With the Government pledged £1.5m to fund the smart motorway project, we decided to ask UK drivers what they think of these new roads. For those who don't know, a smart highway aims to reduce congestion by using active traffic management techniques to control the flow with variable speed bumps and by increasing capacity by using the hard shoulder at rush hour.
We've had a great response with over 1,000 drivers sharing their thoughts on smart highways. A majority (41%) agreed that smart motorways were the right move to reduce congestion on Britain's roads, but many (45%) thought the government's £1.5 billion could be spent elsewhere instead should.
Smart motorway funding should be put into the NHS
Suggestions for where the money should be spent included improving existing roads (49%) and handing them over to the NHS to improve healthcare (30%). One participant stressed that "£1.5billion could be better spent in areas that have seen a lot of cuts lately (NHS, education etc.)".
Our own Stephen Gill says: "With the Brexit outcome still in the loop and people unsure about the future of the NHS and other UK institutions, it comes as no surprise that participants are proposing the £1.5billion for output those areas that are seen as suffering. However, people may not be aware of the benefits of smart highways, as the survey also shows that there is a clear lack of knowledge among the general public.”
More information should be provided about smart highways
The proportion of participants unsure about supporting the creation of smarter highways outweighed those who refused to show their support (39% to 20%).
“It's clear that a wide range of people in the UK have limited knowledge of smart motorways and the potential benefits they can bring, including smoother traffic flows, more reliable travel times, fewer collisions and less noise and pollution. However, there are still concerns about opening the hard shoulder at peak times and whether this could affect the time it takes emergency services to travel to an incident.”
Opening the hard shoulder could prove fatal
In our survey, 49% of respondents agreed it's a good idea to open the shoulder to traffic during rush hours. According to the AA Populus However, in a survey of 20,845 drivers, 80% of drivers agree that the opening of the hard shoulder has made motorways more dangerous than they were four years ago, even labeling them "dead zones".
The AA has raised concerns with Transport Secretary Chris Grayling about the 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 lay-by being visible, it is likely to stop in an active lane where it faces an increased risk of being hit from behind. Getting stuck in a live lane with trucks roaring behind you is every driver's worst nightmare. The official advice is to dial 999, which just goes to show how dangerous the situation can be.”