Extra lay-bys to be retrofitted to smart motorways amid safety fears

Extra lay-bys are to be retrofitted to the most dangerous stretches of smart motorways due to safety concerns.

Highways England has pledged to install a number of additional emergency refuge areas in places where drivers are most likely to stop in live lanes.

Following a safety review, it also decided to reduce the maximum gap between lay-bys in future schemes from 1.5 miles to one mile “where practicable”.

Smart motorways boost capacity by using the hard shoulder for traffic, which means if people break down or have an accident they may have to stop in a live running lane if they can’t get to a refuge area.

Sections of the M25, M1, M4 and M6 have already been converted and another 480 smart motorway lane miles are planned.

Safety fears – motoring groups are concerned that a lack of lay-bys is putting drivers at risk (Pictures: PA)

Motoring groups have been lobbying the Department for Transport over fears that the perceived lack of lay-bys is putting drivers at risk of being hit from behind if they need to stop suddenly.

In a 2016 AA questionnaire, drivers described smart motorways as “death zones” and the refuge areas as “desperate unreachable havens”.

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On Friday a family described being hit by a lorry at up to 60mph after breaking down on a section of the M6 which had no hard shoulder in preparation for becoming a smart motorway.

Duncan Montgomery, who was in the car with his wife and their three daughters, told Channel 4 News: “Glass was smashed everywhere, the whole side of the van was halfway across the carriage.”

‘Death zones’ – in an AA questionnaire, drivers described smart motorways as “death zones”

AA president Edmund King described the increase in the number of lay-bys as “victory for common sense”.

He said: “Improving capacity and easing congestion on our motorways is key for the economy, but not at the expense of safety.

“The gap between emergency refuge areas has been a major concern.”