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Highway Code needs updating to reflect ‘smart’ motorway design

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The AA has written to Road Safety Minister Jesse Norman MP to seek “life-saving changes” to the Highway Code in an effort to improve safety on the nation’s motorways.

Following two recent deaths and a series of serious incidents, the motoring organisation says the changes are needed to “reflect progress in vehicle and road design”.

At present the Highway Code only considers motorways as having three lanes of traffic with a continuous hard shoulder, but since 2006 three types of ‘smart’ motorway now exist alongside the traditional motorway layout.

They are:

  • Carriageways where the flow of traffic is managed by adapting speed and enforced by speed cameras (Controlled Motorways).
  • The hard should only being used at peak times (Dynamic Hard Shoulder).
  • No hard shoulder with Emergency Refuge Areas spaced every 2.5 km apart (All Lane Running)

With more than 500 miles of ‘smart’ motorway already live, and with more schemes scheduled in the coming years, the Highway Code does not advise drivers what to do in the event of a breakdown on any of the latest types of motorway, says the AA.

As well as updating the Code in general, the AA has called for:

  • A rule that would ask drivers to create an ‘Emergency corridor’ to allow emergency services access to incidents where there is no continuous hard shoulder.
  • A new ‘slow down and move over’ rule when passing broken down vehicles on motorways. This would protect breakdown, recovery and emergency services operatives working on the hard shoulder.

Edmund King, AA president said: “Eight out of 10 drivers (79%) say that motorways are more dangerous now compared to four years ago simply because of the removal of the hard shoulder.

“More than a decade on since the introduction of smart motorways, we see these changes to the Highway Code as a necessary step to try help save lives and improve safety and driver confidence when people use motorways.

“From next year, new drivers will be allowed to take lessons on motorways. We believe these changes would help them understand the differing types of motorway they could interact with before they even drive on.

“Safety is of paramount importance on all of our roads, and therefore we look forward to the Minister taking these important points on board to enhance road safety.”

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