Roads in Great Britain, especially its motorways, are among the safest in the world. Motorways are safer than all other types of road. For example, of the 1,489 deaths on England’s roads in 2019, 15 (1%) occurred on motorways without a hard shoulder; 70 (5%) occurred on motorways with a hard shoulder. The remainder, and by far the largest number of roads deaths, occur on non-motorway roads. Rural roads, in particular, are over-represented in fatal collisions.

Deaths on motorways without a permanent hard shoulder, however, have increased from five in 2017 to 15 in 2019.

All Lane Running motorways (ALR) were first introduced on the Strategic Road Network in 2014. By 2019, 141 miles of all-lane running motorways had been rolled out across the network. The key distinguishing feature of all-lane running motorways is that the hard shoulder, unlike previous iterations of smart motorway, is permanently used as an extra lane. All-lane running motorways use similar technology to other smart motorways, but there are notable differences in their design. Emergency refuge areas, which provide an alternative safe place to stop in the absence of the hard shoulder, are provided up to 1.6 miles (or 2.5km) apart, but typically occur every 1.2 miles.

In comparison, dynamic hard shoulder motorways typically have emergency refuge areas every 800 metres to 1,000 metres. At 1.6 miles apart, drivers travelling at 60 mph are no more than 75 seconds away from the next emergency refuge area. That time gap falls to roughly 30 seconds when emergency refuge areas are located every 500 to 800 metres. The speed limit on all-lane running motorways is 70 mph.[1]

Following extensive government scrutiny, and a corresponding report by the Transport Committee, a raft of recommendations are been taken forward to improve the safety of ALR motorways in England, including:

• The retrofitting of emergency refuge areas to existing all-lane running motorways to make them a maximum of 1 mile apart, decreasing to every 0.75 miles where physically possible.
• The insertion of the emergency corridor manoeuvre into the Highway Code to help emergency services and traffic patrol officers to access incidents when traffic is congested.
• Reducing the time for which people who break down or stop in a live lane are at risk.
• Promoting measures to eliminate driver confusion regarding the use of dynamic hard shoulder; and
• Educating drivers on what to do if they break down in a live lane.

Road Safety GB supports the Government’s approach to improving the safety of ALR motorways, and the specific measures being introduced.
Road Safety GB believes effective road safety interventions – whether educational, engineering or enforcement – should always be based on robust data-led information and effective evaluation; accordingly, policymaking should be founded on the same principles.

[1] House of Commons Transport Committee Rollout and safety of smart motorways 2021-22

Updated: 21 January 2022

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