Smart motorways without a hard shoulder have a poorer safety record for crashes involving stopped vehicles than conventional motorways, new figures show.
People are twice as likely to be killed or seriously injured (KSI) in a stopped vehicle smash on an all lane running (ALR) smart motorway than on a traditional motorway with a hard shoulder, statistics published by National Highways indicate.
But the Government-owned company responsible for motorways and major A roads in England insists smart motorways are ‘our safest roads’ overall for serious or fatal casualties.
Eight people were killed on motorways without a permanent hard shoulder in 2020, representing 0.64 per cent of the 1,246 fatalities on England’s roads.
Concerns have been raised about fatal incidents where vehicles stopped in traffic on smart motorways were hit from behind.
National Highways said crashes involving stopped vehicles are a ‘very small proportion’ of all motorway collisions, at 5.26 per cent for ALR schemes.
An annual average of nine people were killed or seriously injured in a crash involving a stopped vehicle on an ALR motorway between 2016 and 2020, at a rate of 0.19 victims per hundred million vehicle miles.
On conventional motorways, the rate was 0.09.
National Highways chief executive Nick Harris insists ‘safety is a huge priority for me’ as he urged people to ‘look at it in the round’ when assessing the data.
The figures show that the KSI rate for collisions of all types is lower on ALR smart motorways than on traditional motorways.
But a recent RAC poll of 2,652 UK drivers suggested that 62 per cent believe hard shoulders should be reintroduced across the motorway network.
Mr Harris said Highways England has found that ‘people are more comfortable with the roads that are least safe’.
He wants his organisation to help road users ‘feel more confident and come to a better understanding’.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps published a smart motorways evidence stocktake and action plan in March 2020, which included 18 measures to boost safety and public confidence in the roads.