The government has confirmed that no more ‘All Lane Running’ motorways will be opened without radar camera technology that can detect stopped and broken down vehicles.
The news comes as a result of a report into boosting safety on smart motorways amid concerns that they were more dangerous than standard motorways.
Critics point to the fact that these motorways do not have hard shoulders, giving broken down motorists no safe haven. Some areas of smart motorway are not fully covered by cameras either, though there are regular designated laybys for broken down vehicles to stop.
On top of the pledge for new motorways, the government is bringing forward its commitment to cover all existing smart motorways with the technology six months earlier than planned.
Other commitments include upgrading special cameras designed to spot and prosecute motorists ignoring red X signs 10 months earlier than planned, as well as installing 1,000 additional approach signs that alert drivers to the nearest emergency stop location six months before they originally intended.
The Highway Code will be updated to provide more smart motorway guidance this year, too.
The government says data from its report into smart motorways shows drivers on conventional motorways are 33 per cent more likely to be involved in a fatal accident.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “Despite the data showing that fatalities are less likely on All Lane Running motorways than on conventional ones, this doesn’t mean all drivers necessarily feel safe on them.
“That is why I tasked Highways England last year with delivering an action plan to raise the bar on safety measures even higher. This progress report shows the extensive work already carried out, but we want to do more.”
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We welcome the Government’s commitment that no smart motorway will open without the important stopped vehicle detection technology as this should improve safety significantly.
“While it appears good progress is being made on implementing some of the changes the Government promised last year, we are concerned that drivers will still need to wait up to 18 months before all cameras are enforcing ‘red X’ lane closed signs.
“Enforcement is vital in getting all drivers to obey these signs as anyone who disregards them is at a much greater risk of being in collision with a stranded vehicle.
“With the Government seemingly committed to all lane running smart motorways, it is imperative they’re made as safe as possible by using all the technology and highway design features at their disposal.”