Smart motorways were introduced in the UK in 2014 and now cover over 500 miles of our motorway network with another 300 miles of smart motorway conversion planned over the next five years - but how safe are they really?
Since their introduction, there have been 38 deaths, A Freedom of Information (FoI) request sent by Panorama to Highways England revealed that on one section of the M25, outside London, the number of near misses had risen 20-fold since the hard shoulder was removed in April 2014. In the five years before the road was converted into a smart motorway, there were just 72 near misses. In the five years after, there were 1,485.
The roads have come under criticism because of a lack of hard shoulder meaning motorists can be trapped in a ‘live’ lane of speeding traffic in the event of a breakdown with members of parliament and the police force calling for further investigation into the issue
Driving For Work: Do we need to be concerned?
Work that involves driving is always considered to be high risk and the safety of smart motorways is under dispute with some of the issues including:
What Can Employers Do?
There were several key rules which motorists claimed not to know including:
However, as many drivers have pointed out those key rules do not adequately address what to do in an emergency, Highways Agency has issued this further guidance
If your vehicle has a problem on a motorway with no hard shoulder
If you can’t get off the motorway or to an emergency area:
If your car stops unexpectedly in any lane and it is not safe to get out:
Your Legal Requirements
Whilst there is no specific legislation surrounding driving for work and smart motorways, employers have duties under health and safety law for on-the-road work activities. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act)2 states you must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work. You must also ensure that others are not put at risk by your work-related driving activities.