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New safety technology on smart motorways in bid to make drivers ‘feel safe’

The installation of new safety equipment on smart motorways will be completed within the next five months to help ensure drivers “feel safe” on the roads.

National Highways said it is on course to upgrade 95 cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles ignoring red X lane closure signals by the end of September.

The cameras give police the ability to issue £100 fines to offenders without spotting them in the act, as was the case previously.

The upgrade is aimed at reducing the number of motorists who ignore the signs, which are used when lanes are closed due to a broken-down vehicle or roadworks.

Concerns have been raised about fatal incidents where vehicles stopped in traffic on smart motorways without a hard shoulder were hit from behind.

A recent RAC poll of 2,652 UK drivers suggested that 62% believe hard shoulders should be reintroduced across the motorway network.

National Highways said it will add to the 330 additional signs already installed which inform drivers of the distance to the next emergency refuge area.

It added that it is on track to complete the rollout of radar technology to improve detection of stopped vehicles in live lanes on more than 200 miles of smart motorways by the end of September.

The organisation’s chief executive Nick Harris said: “Our network is relied upon by an ever-increasing number of people to work, visit family and friends, do business and much more.

“It is only right that these drivers and their passengers are safe and, crucially, feel safe on our roads, including smart motorways.

“It is now two years since the Transport Secretary first published the smart motorway stocktake, and today’s report shows that we are making good progress delivering on these ambitious recommendations. But we are not complacent.

“The latest data shows that, overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are our safest roads.

“We are continuing our work to make them our safest roads in every way.

“We will continue to build on the work already undertaken and continue to put safety first to help ensure drivers have confidence in the motorway network.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps published a smart motorways evidence stocktake and action plan in March 2020.

This included 18 measures to improve safety and public confidence in the roads.

In January, the Department for Transport halted the development of new smart motorways without a hard shoulder until five years of safety data has been collected for schemes introduced before 2020.

This followed a report by the Transport Select Committee in November 2021 which said there was not enough information to justify continuing with new projects.

Smart motorways feature various methods to manage the flow of traffic, including using the hard shoulder as a live running lane and variable speed limits.

They were introduced in England in 2014 as a cheaper way of increasing capacity compared with widening carriageways.