More than one in three (36%) people believe smart motorways are more dangerous and that permanent hard shoulders should be reinstated as soon as possible.
While the Government has currently paused the rollout of new smart motorway schemes until more safety data on their operation is available, the new research from Kwik Fit reveals drivers have clear doubts over whether they will ever be safe.
Only 5% of people believe that smart motorways are as safe or safer than traditional motorways and say all motorways should be converted to smart motorways wherever possible. A total of 6% of respondents believe that smart motorways are more dangerous but that any increase in risk is justified if they reduce congestion.
Meanwhile, one in five (22%) people in the Kwik Fit research thought pausing to allow more data to be gathered on their safety was a sensible approach as it is unclear whether smart motorways are more or less safe than traditional motorways.
Kwik Fit’s analysis also reveals that drivers are taking their own precautionary measures when using those smart stretches that are already in operation.
Three-quarters of drivers (73%) now say they steer clear of the left-hand lane on smart motorways – that’s up from 56% in 2019. The most common reason for avoiding the hard shoulder is concern that there may be a stationary vehicle ahead, cited by 31%. The second most frequent response is that they simply don’t think that smart motorways are safe and they therefore drive as if it’s a normal motorway, stated by 30%.
A total of 22% of drivers said they avoid of the hard shoulder as they’re often uncertain whether they should be there or not as the signs were unclear – that’s down from 29% in 2019, indicating a greater familiarity with the smart systems, but still means that one in five drivers who don’t use the hard shoulder say they are still not confident they understand the signage.
Meanwhile, 19% say they are concerned about having no escape route to their left-hand side if they have to change lanes quickly, 17% say they don’t like driving so close to the verge, and 15% are worried about damage from debris on the hard shoulder.
Interesting, 12% of overall respondents say that the congestion problems should be tackled in a different way and that the money invested in smart motorways should be spend on improving public transport.
Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, said: “Smart motorways have been a huge topic of debate and it is absolutely correct for the Government to pause their development to both gather data and ensure that the UK’s motorways are as safe as possible. It is clear that many drivers are yet to be convinced about the safety of smart motorways and therefore there must be clear transparency about all the data being gathered and the evidence on which future decisions are based.”
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