Smart move

It’s about time someone did something about so-called “smart” motorways.

I don’t call them “smart”, instead using the term thick motorways.

In my opinion dumping the hard shoulder and replacing it with a fourth lane is a stupid and dangerous idea.

And now, it seems, I’m not on my own.

Road safety and breakdown cover specialist GEM Motoring Assist is calling for a complete stop to the rollout of so-called smart motorways until a proper safety review has taken place.

They also want sufficient refuge areas to be provided to assist stranded motorists.

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “Motorways may be the fastest roads we use and are statistically also the safest, but the high speeds used on them mean that when there is a crash, it is likely to be more serious.

“That’s why on average around one in 50 motorway collisions is fatal, compared to one in 70 on all other roads.

“We are asking ministers and highways authorities to call a halt to smart motorways across the country.”

GEM says it is regrettable that in spite of the spread of smart motorways there is still no specific advice contained in the Highway Code – a situation that is unacceptable bearing in mind that so many motorists are being penalised every day for being at the wrong speed or in a closed lane.

Worth adds: “Understanding how a smart motorway works, and knowing what to do if you are unfortunate enough to experience a breakdown could well prove to be a lifesaver.”

Here are GEM’s top 10 tips for safer motorway driving:

1 Plan your journey so you know when to join and leave the motorway. You’re far less likely to be taken by surprise when it comes to choosing the correct lane at junctions and intersections.

2 Choose a safe speed and always use the left hand lane unless you are overtaking.

3 Check your following distance by the ‘two second rule’. Watch the vehicle in front go past a signpost, under a bridge or past some other reference point, then speak out: “Only a fool breaks the two second rule.” If you pass the same point before you’ve finished the sentence, then you are too close.

4 Double your following distance in wet weather.

5 Scan the road a long way ahead so that you have an early sight of developing hazards.

6 Make regular mirror checks. If you observe a fast-approaching vehicle, then take steps to move out of its way. Before changing lanes check your mirrors and blind spots and indicate your intention to move either left or right. Only commence the manoeuvre when you know you can complete it safely.

7 Avoid any sort of distraction. No mobile device, no interfering with the radio or sat-nav, no eating or drinking. Give 100% of your attention to driving.

8 If you are about to miss your motorway exit don’t take last-minute risky manoeuvres to leave it. Continue to the next junction and turn around or follow the revised sat-nav instructions.

9 Familiarise yourself with the rules and signs that apply to smart motorways so that you stay safe and avoid a ticket for speeding or using a closed lane.

10 Knowing what to do if you break down in a stretch of smart motorway is a big help for road safety. Then you will know what to do if you experience a breakdown yourself and will also understand what’s happening if another vehicle breaks down.