The majority (71%) of drivers would feel less safe on a motorway with no hard shoulder than a motorway with one, according to the latest poll by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).
The survey follows the creation of the first 'smart' section of motorway with traffic running permanently on the hard shoulder on eight miles of the M25 between junctions 23 and 25 (see more on this story here).
One of the main concerns of the 1, 582 survey respondents is the plan to increase the distance between safety refuges with 48% of respondents believing that safety refuges should be no more than 500 yards (0.45km) apart.
Two fiths (40%) of respondents are sceptical that new monitoring systems on 'Smart' motorways, such as electronic signs, can protect them in the event of stopping in a running lane.
Other survey findings include:
- 67% of respondents haven’t seen any publicity about 'Smart' motorways.
- Around a third (32%) of respondents would support the legalising of undertaking on 'Smart' motorways.
- 42% believe 'Smart' motorways have reduced congestion and 43% of respondents say it has improved their journey times.
Simon Best, chief executive of the IAM, said: “Smart motorways are being rolled out across England but our survey shows that drivers want more reassurance and information on how safe they will be and how to use them.
"The IAM has been supportive of hard shoulder running but we have always said that the Highways Agency must be quick to learn and implement any real world lessons as more schemes come into use.”
The IAM offers some guidance on using 'Smart' motorways:
Pay attention to the overhead gantries as they provide information on traffic conditions and lane access for the road ahead. The six signals are:
- A red cross without flashing beacons. The hard shoulder is only for use in an emergency or breakdown.
- A speed limit inside a red circle. It is absolutely mandatory and may have cameras enforcing it.
- A blank signal. Usual motorway rules apply.
- A white arrow with flashing beacons. This applies to all lanes and means you should move into the lane which the arrow points to.
- A red cross with flashing beacons. You should not continue to use the lane.
- A national speed limit sign is shown. The national speed limit, 70mph maximum, applies to all lanes apart from the hard shoulder.
Types of motorways:
- Controlled motorway – these have three or more lanes with variable speed limits. Hard shoulder use is strictly for emergency use only.
- Hard shoulder running – the hard shoulder will be opened at busy times and the speed limit will be reduced. Don’t use the hard shoulder unless overhead signs show that you can do so.
- All lane running – there is no hard shoulder on these sections of the motorway. Obey the variable speed limits and do not stop on the motorway. In the event of an emergency, use an emergency refuge area, motorway service area or exit at the next junction.