Back in the late 50’s early 60’s motorways were constructed through Britain presumably in order to ease traffic. Cars were not as fast although today’s cars have safety specifications. It was not a legal requirement in the UK to wear a seatbelt until 1983. Modern vehicles are fitted with airbags, ABS and some gadget to get you home safely. However, they travel at speeds which are not legal in Britain and can be abused by some motorists.
When we first encountered motorways we did not have crash barriers or central reservations. At the time many people thought they would be unsafe and a dangerous way to travel, over a period of time we’ve come to accept motorways as a fact of life and possibly blasé about their existence, now we cannot avoid them.
My fears were underlined by a Panorama programme yesterday evening. This highlighted the lack of safety on Smart Motorways, people are dying needlessly due to the thoughtlessness of those who planned it because it’s not been given any kind of phased launch. Only a small section of the M42 was initially trialed. Watch it and see for yourselves.
We’ve worked so hard to make our motorways a safe option, why are we now going backwards?
Recently, I was trapped on the M23 for at least an hour with 4 lanes of traffic chock-a-block, freight lorries attempting to change lanes in order to get somewhere quicker, due to a broken down vehicle 3 miles ahead of us. No warnings or notifications, just solid traffic. We drove under motorway gantries and we snail-crept passed signs advising us to await assistance in the event of a breakdown. The risk of overheating was greater to us. Where was the assistance coming from? Only emergency vehicles can use ‘Blues and Twos’ to warn the traffic behind that they need to get through. The RAC, AA and Green Flag don’t have that and indignant drivers are very reluctant to give way unless they have to. So, that Assistance can’t get through, because there is no Hard Shoulder!
Smart Motorways are just not safe. A driver who’s vehicle breaks down is totally unclear as to the best move now the hard shoulder is no longer an option. Should he or she leave their vehicle? Or should they stay in the car and risk being hit by a freight pantechnicon? The hard shoulder is the intrinsic part of the motorway and the advice from the Government and Automobile organisations is unclear and very fuzzy. I’ve just Googled to get advice. If I can get my car to an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA) I should do so, but let’s assume I’ve just passed one and the next one is almost 1.5 miles away and I’ve broken down in the middle lane, lost all power including my lights. Hazards don’t work, what should I do now? If I get out of the car, (forgetting that I’m in a wheelchair and can’t stand) I run the risk of being swept into the line of traffic by a fast moving BMW or if I stay in the car I’m a sitting duck. According to the advice I’ve just read I need the telephone number for Highways England on speed dial!
What are your thoughts on Smart Motorways? If you’re reading this on Facebook, please share and if Twitter is your preferred social media, please retweet. I’ve put a link to a Change.Org petition which might save your life.