UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has scrapped proposed plans to build fourteen new smart motorways, acknowledging widespread concerns about their safety and a lack of public trust.
Smart motorways, which currently make up around 10 percent of England’s motorway network, including a stretch on the M20 in Kent, have faced criticism since their inception after countless deaths which sme say could have been avoided.
Of the 14 planned smart motorways which are set to be scrapped, 11 are currently paused with a further three earmarked for construction.
The motorways use a combination of variable speed limits and the conversion of hard shoulders to active lanes in order to manage traffic, with drivers often forced to stop in live lanes where no emergency stopping zone is available.
But in an interesting twist, on radio this morning MPs pledged to keep existing motorways as they say that ‘data proves they are our safest roads’.
When pushed harder by the radio presenter, the MP would not divulge any further information or produce any factual data to back up their claims.
Their only promise was that the Government were looking at adding additional breakdown areas and installing more cameras and technology to make the roads safer.
But it still leaves the question as to whether smart motorways are actually safe or not?
If the additional measures are going to bring these motorways up to a safe level, then why is the Government not pressing on with building more?
If the are deemed to be ‘not safe’, then why are their plans to continue use of existing ones?
The data may only provide a simplistic analysis of the current situation. Although the death rate may be potentially lower on smart motorways, it could be because smart motorways have been installed on our busiest sections of motorways. This would artificially reduce the number of deaths as a percentage of total road users.
Quieter roads would have less users, so a potential death would produce a much higher percentage.
The problem is that the Government are not going to openly admit that they have made a mistake. It is also cheaper to install a few extra cameras than it is to dig up the roads or try and install a full breakdown lane along miles of road.
It is clear once more, that the Government think they baffle the public with empty promises and treat us all like we do not understand. Unfortunately we do understand, and we have done for a long time already. But sadly, we will still need to continue to use these dangerous roads ad put ourselves and others at risk.