Since their formal introduction in 2014, SMART motorways continue to divide opinion.

This is all you need to know

Who was the first to test this idea?

Who Invented Smart Motorways?
Who Invented Smart Motorways? Image source: Wikipedia

What was the origin of smart motorways?

Highways England, a government-owned corporation, introduced Smart Motorways for the first time.

The RAC stated that their goal was to manage traffic so that there is minimal environmental impact, cost, and time to construct while avoiding the need for additional lanes.

A number of governments considered the idea desirable and began testing it along 14 miles of M25 in 1995.

After initial success, the network was quickly expanded to include hundreds of miles of motorway throughout the country in the 2000s.

The smart motorway can now be divided into three categories:

  • Controlled
  • All-lane running (ARL).
  • A hard dynamic shoulder.

ARL is an acronym that means sections of motorway do not have a hard shoulder. Instead, motorists will need to rely on Emergency Refuge Areas.

Smart motorways use technology to control traffic flow during peak hours, such as by changing the speed limit.

Motorway sections can be controlled to control traffic flow during peak times.

Operators may adjust the speed limit by placing lit signs above overhead gantries. This is done to reduce the annoying stop-start driving conditions on normal roads.

Dynamic hard shoulder motorways, which open up the hard shoulder during busy times, can increase the road’s capacity.

Is there a smart motorway that was built in the first place?

In 2006, the M42 was home to the first smart motorway system. Official trials were underway to determine their safety and effectiveness.

According to reports, the government was so impressed by Ruth Kelly, the Transport secretary, that she announced that PS150 million would go towards extending the plans.

Ms Kelly stated that people get from their front doors to their workplace in a much faster time frame.

“The safety concerns that people had have not materialized and it’s good news for the economy as well as the environment.”

A PS2 billion contract was announced in 2010 to “really impress” the M1, M4, M5, M6, M60, and M62.

The Highways Agency was promoting the technology to road users by 2013 with the creation of the smart motorways.

Are smart motorways dangerous?

The Government continues to call smart motorways “among the safest roads in the UK” as of January 2022. However, it has decided to stop rollout plans for safety reasons.

Since their introduction in the UK, there have been at most 38 deaths on smart motorways. However, it is possible that the number will be higher.

Official figures show that the death rate on smart motorways is actually up to a third more than conventional highways with hard shoulders.

Last year, the Sun reported that motorways are so dangerous that the AA wouldn’t allow breakdown crews to stop on them.

Near misses, on one stretch the reconfigured M25 outside London rose 20 times to 1,485 over the five years since the hard shoulder was removed.

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