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Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren’t

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Motorway at night

Opinion: Motorways are smart. Pity drivers aren't

Motorway at nightAs a regular user of the M6 and M1, it happens almost every time I drive on them: someone cruises up the hard shoulder and drives past me.

Quite apart from the obvious rules-flouting undertake, this is also illegal because, well, it’s the hard shoulder, not a live running lane. So why do they do it?

Because it’s a smart motorway section and they clearly think it’s within their right. Indeed, the undertake is probably a badge of honour because I’m in the wrong and they’re teaching me a lesson. (Such is the logic of many road rage-infused motorists.)

Only I’m not. And they’re not so smart. Because although it’s a smart motorway, the ‘smart’ hard shoulder bit isn’t actually live. The overhead gantries, shorn of illuminated speed limit indicators, confirm this.

And if they then do come across someone stopped on the side of the motorway, poking about under their bonnet or struggling to change a wheel – well, it doesn’t bear thinking about, does it?

This is the conundrum of smart motorways: they’re an excellent idea, and the stepchange in available road space really does help manage congestion. I’m all in favour of them – but people need to be taught how to use them, and this is where the Department for Transport has failed.

Because now, it’s almost an assumption that if a motorway is smart, the hard shoulder can be used all the time. And, sooner or later, I fear this is going to cause a big accident. If, indeed, it hasn’t already.

The simple solution is obvious: if the lane is closed, permanently display a big red ‘X’ in that lane. This would make it blindingly obvious to all road users. Oh, and maybe set the speed cameras to capture motorists who drive past a red ‘X’ (or at least tell people that’s what you’re planning to do).

Motorists are still getting used to smart motorways, and an apparent lack of information means many just don’t understand it. So, DfT, until you get your education campaign fully into gear, turn on the crosses. It may just save lives.

Chris Grayling Transport Secretary

Britain’s new transport secretary is Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling Transport SecretaryChris Grayling has been appointed Secretary of State for Transport by new Prime Minister Theresa May.

Grayling replaces Patrick McLoughlin, who becomes Conservative party chairman.

> More car news on Motoring Research

Formerly Leader of the House of Commons since the 2015 general election, Grayling supported the Leave campaign in the European Referendum. He also served as the Conservative shadow transport minister between 2005-2007.

Among Grayling’s more immediate transport decisions will be an announcement on airport expansion in the south east and further news on the HS2 rail project.

What should transport secretary Chris Grayling do?

The RAC’s Nick Lyes believes Grayling’s arrival could see a change in priorities – but hopes they don’t hit motorists in the pocket. “Motorists have in recent years benefitted from a prolonged fuel duty freeze and a focus on upgrading the strategic road network.

But what motorists need in this era of uncertainty is clarity that the Government will continue to be on their side. This means not increasing fuel duty and sticking with the long-term vision of investment for our strategic road network.”

With traffic volumes at record levels, the RAC wants assurances that Road Investment Strategy will be fully implemented and that long-term funding is found to fix Britain’s pothole-riddled roads (last year alone the RAC reported a 24% increase in pothole damage call-outs).

Indeed, “the state of our local roads is now so serious that motorists tell us that fixing the problem is their number one priority,” said Lyes.

“The Government will also have decisions to make about implementing clean air zones and improving road safety. Given the important part Britain’s 38 million motorists play in the country’s economic health, prioritising their needs is absolutely essential.”

Chris Grayling Transport Secretary

Britain's new transport secretary is Chris Grayling

Chris Grayling Transport SecretaryChris Grayling has been appointed Secretary of State for Transport by new Prime Minister Theresa May.

Grayling replaces Patrick McLoughlin, who becomes Conservative party chairman.

> More car news on Motoring Research

Formerly Leader of the House of Commons since the 2015 general election, Grayling supported the Leave campaign in the European Referendum. He also served as the Conservative shadow transport minister between 2005-2007.

Among Grayling’s more immediate transport decisions will be an announcement on airport expansion in the south east and further news on the HS2 rail project.

What should transport secretary Chris Grayling do?

The RAC’s Nick Lyes believes Grayling’s arrival could see a change in priorities – but hopes they don’t hit motorists in the pocket. “Motorists have in recent years benefitted from a prolonged fuel duty freeze and a focus on upgrading the strategic road network.

But what motorists need in this era of uncertainty is clarity that the Government will continue to be on their side. This means not increasing fuel duty and sticking with the long-term vision of investment for our strategic road network.”

With traffic volumes at record levels, the RAC wants assurances that Road Investment Strategy will be fully implemented and that long-term funding is found to fix Britain’s pothole-riddled roads (last year alone the RAC reported a 24% increase in pothole damage call-outs).

Indeed, “the state of our local roads is now so serious that motorists tell us that fixing the problem is their number one priority,” said Lyes.

“The Government will also have decisions to make about implementing clean air zones and improving road safety. Given the important part Britain’s 38 million motorists play in the country’s economic health, prioritising their needs is absolutely essential.”

BTCC racer urges drivers to slow down on country roads

BTCC racer urges drivers to slow down on country roads

BTCC racer urges drivers to slow down on country roads

11 times more people are killed on country roads than motorways in the UK, according to figures from the DfT.

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Pothole

Department for Transport slammed for failing to maintain roads

PotholeA top MP has slammed the Department for Transport (DfT) for cutting maintenance budgets – leading to 70% of motorists being unsatisfied with the quality of our roads. Read more

Police Ford Focus

2.5 million uninsured cars on British roads

Police Ford FocusThere are currently 2.5 million uninsured cars on the roads in the UK, according to the Private Motor Insurance Market Report.

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