Motorists lack awareness of emergency refuge areas on smart motorways: RAC

12.00 | 22 May 2017 |

A new survey suggests that more than half of motorists are not familiar with emergency refuge areas (ERAs) on smart motorways.

Published today (22 May), 52% of respondents to the RAC survey did not know what an ERA was, a figure described as ‘disturbing’ by the breakdown organisation.

The survey also suggests there is considerable confusion about how to use ERAs, with two-thirds of respondents neither knowing what to do after stopping (64%), nor how to re-join the motorway (65%).

On smart motorways the hard shoulder is used as a running lane for traffic, either permanently or at busy times of the day. To date, smart motorways have already added more than 472 extra lane miles of capacity to the strategic road network through their implementation. ERAs are intended to provide a safe haven for broken-down or accident-stricken vehicles in in the absence of a hard shoulder.

Of the 1.5% of respondents who had actually used an ERA, only one person knew that they should contact Highways England to facilitate their return to the motorway if the hard shoulder was operating as a running lane for traffic. The other respondents thought they should just wait for a gap in the traffic and then accelerate as quickly as possible to motorway speed.

There was, however, a better awareness of when it is appropriate to stop in an emergency refuge area. Almost every motorist (98%) said they should be used in a breakdown situation and 90% stated they should be used after an accident.

David Bizley, RAC chief engineer, said: “It is essential that motorists understand how and when to use an emergency refuge area so they do not put their own safety and that of other road users at risk.

“Vehicles should pull up to the indicated mark on the tarmac or the emergency telephone and then the occupants should leave the vehicle from the passenger side.

“Everyone should stand behind the barriers and should use the emergency roadside telephone provided to speak to a Highways England representative.”

Image: Highways England, via Flickr

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