Are Smart Motorways More Dangerous Than Ever?

Sun 21st Feb 2021

Latest data published this week has shown that there were more deaths on smart motorways than ever before, but Highways England is adamant that they are making them safer.

Deaths on stretches of motorway without hard shoulders rose to 14 in 2019, up from 11 deaths in 2018, according to figures available on the Stats-19 accident database.

The news comes at a time when the controversial motorways are under more scrutiny than ever, with cornoners blaming the roads for the death of motorists and even the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, suggesting that they are anything but smart. 

A report in the Sunday Times suggests that the deaths per mile of smart motorway has risen from one every 43 miles in 2016 to one every 17 miles in 2019.

Speaking in the Sunday Times, Claire Mercer who husband Jason was one of those victims in 2019 said: “It’s 14 people who didn’t come home, which is exactly what happened with my husband. People are starting to realise the emergency of it. Smart motorways need to be scrapped. We need the hard shoulder back — it is the only way that we will stop this dangerous situation. All motorways need a hard shoulder all of the time.”

Despite the criticism the Department for Transport has given its backing to the roads and said a major financial investment will make smart motorways even safer.

“It is misleading to draw conclusions on safety based on data for a single year, doing so over a longer period of time provides a more accurate picture,” said a DfT spokesperson.

“Since taking office, the current Secretary of State has expressed his concerns about smart motorways. 

“He has committed £500m to safety improvements and has recently pressed Highways England to further accelerate work. The safety and peace of mind of drivers and passengers using these routes remains our priority.”