Despite the fact – because of the fact? – that they cost £15 million per mile to build, the jury is still very definitely out over whether smart motorways are a good thing, or the worst thing since the M6 was first created.
In the last 5 years, 38 people have died on smart motorways. And there are more near misses on them –a recent Panorama exposé claims that on one recently completed stretch of smart M25, where 5 years previously there had been 72 near misses, there have since been 1485 potentially tragic incidents.
Many of these incidents are also preventable, roadside assistance claims. Edmund King, president of the AA, reports that many horrific accidents have occurred when motorists have broken down in a live lane and can’t get out of it – and a vehicle has ploughed into the back of them.
Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has requested an urgent review of the situation and whether road safety is being compromised. More emergency laybys have been suggested as one possible solution, as well as more radar detection systems to help identify broken-down vehicles.
It’s ironic that the MP who agreed to the roll-out of smart motorways after their initial trial on the M42, Sir Mike Penning, is now spearheading the attack on them, detailed in a report that accuses Highways England of “a shocking degree of carelessness.”
A moratorium is being called for, preventing the further conversion of motorway to their supposedly “smart” alternatives, until the safety of smart motorways can be proven.
But with statistics like the ones above, the jury is definitely out for some time to come.