Smart motorways put recovery workers’ lives ‘at risk’, says MP Mike Penning

Smart motorways put recovery workers’ lives ‘at risk’, says MP

Smart motorways, which use the hard shoulder as a fourth lane, are being investigated over claims they are more dangerous than standard motorways.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Sir Mike Penning, chair of the all-party group investigating motorway safety, has said that smart motorways – which optimise the hard shoulder to reduce congestion – put the lives of recovery workers “at risk”.

Smart motorways, which were introduced in 2014, are being investigated after claims they make it more dangerous for drivers and workers than standard motorways.

Traffic is meant to be kept moving by converting the existing hard shoulder into an "active" fourth lane and controlling speed limits, along with having emergency pull-ins in case a vehicle has to stop.

Mr Penning told talkRADIO’s Jamie East: “We are losing about eight recovery workers a year and even more seriously injured.

“If we had eight police officers killed there would be uproar, and yet these people are rescuing us when we are vulnerable on our motorways and their lives are at risk.”



He suggested that speed cameras on these motorways should be used to protect recovery workers, and that more pull-ins are needed to ensure drivers safety.  

“I used to be the roads minister so when the pilots for these managed roads were done certain things were told to me.

“For instance, sanctuaries would be 500 metres apart but in some of our motorways it is over a mile. The red cross – the road closure – is just not being enforced.

“And yet, if you speed in that lane it would be enforced because the speed cameras are there. Why can’t we use the same cameras to protect people who are rescuing us?

“It is something that has to be done and we need to get on and do it.”


'Cameras galore' 

Mr Penning added that there were “cameras galore” on motorways so lane closures should be able to be enforced.

Highways England own study found that one in five drivers ignored the red cross which has led to major vehicle-recovery firms calling for this urgent inquiry into smart motorways safety.

Mr Penning added: “We need to call for evidence and understand what is going on. Then we will issue a report to government saying they have to change their mind.

“There is no evidence there. I asked the department to tell me how many people from the recovery industry were killed on our motorways last year, they don’t know.

“I only know because the industry is telling me. It is crazy.”