Smart Motorways Are Failing To Detect When Drivers Are Stranded

Smart motorways are failing to detect when drivers are becoming stranded. This is because the technology they depend on is producing too many false alarms…

An “Unmanageable Amount Of False Alarms”

Some smart motorways, like the M25, rely upon ‘Stopped Vehicle Detection’ (SVD) systems to determine when drivers have broken down. However, it’s become apparent that these aren’t always effective as they generate an “unmanageable amount of false alarms” when traffic is dense. The Sunday Times claims it’s secured documents that prove that there’s no way to detect when a driver has become stranded when traffic reaches a certain level. It also reported that similar issues had been detected when traffic was moving at a crawling pace. As it stands, it takes 17 minutes on average for a driver to be registered as stranded on a smart motorway.

In a letter Mike Wilson, Britain’s most senior highways engineer wrote, “the density of traffic at higher volumes means it is very difficult to detect stopped lone vehicles without an unmanageable amount of false alarms”. The letter was included with inquest documents concerning the death of Dev Naran; an eight-year-old who was killed on the ‘smart’ section of the M6. A lorry struck the stationary vehicle he was in. His mother claims that the police admitted to her that the motorway format was unsafe. Nine people were killed on smart motorways last year, with five of them losing their lives on a section of the M1 near Sheffield.

So ‘Dangerous’ The AA Won’t Touch Them 

It’s not just drivers themselves who are becoming increasingly critical of smart motorways. According to Tony Rich, who was once an AA patrolman of the year, the AA seems to have a policy of stopping its breakdown crews from helping stranded motorists. They’re instead required to reach a ‘safe location’ and wait for Highways England to move the vehicle to them. He said, “we’ll contact the customer to say ‘we can’t stop where you are. We will contact Highways England, go to a safe area and wait for the vehicle to be delivered”.

Highways England has repeatedly insisted that smart motorways aren’t simply safe, but that they’re safer. Critics, however, suggest that the format was an attempt at dealing with rising traffic and congestion at a reduced cost; simply converting the hard shoulder rather than widening the network; a time-consuming and costly venture. Whatever the truth is, more and more questions are being asked about the safety of smart motorways and the amount of research that went into their development. As it stands, drivers facing a breakdown need to reach a refuge area; there’s usually one dotted along the road every 1.5 miles. If they can’t, they face the prospect of sitting idle in a live line for 17 minutes…

MPs Are Campaigning Against Smart Motorways –

Dynamic Motorways Are Too ‘Confusing’ According To Highways England –

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