Road Safety News

GEM voices concerns about hard shoulder running

Tuesday 7th January 2014

GEM Motoring Assist has expressed concerns about Highways Agency plans to use sections of the hard shoulder on busy motorways to ease congestion. 

GEM says that since 2005 an increasing number of UK motorways have been re-classified as ‘smart motorways’, which use what was previously the hard shoulder to assist traffic flow during busy times of the day.

David Williams MBE, chief executive of GEM, said: “The idea behind these plans is to keep roads flowing more freely to ease congestion, which is great in principle but there are obvious and worrying concerns.

“When the system is in operation, a vehicle breaking down no longer has an immediate traffic-free area in which to stop.

“Ideally the driver will be able to reach one of the refuge areas built into the system at frequent intervals. However, this is not always possible and a driver may find it necessary to stop in the middle of the traffic flow which is likely to be unnerving for even an experienced driver. On the plus side, Smart Motorways are constantly monitored, so if a driver doesn’t make it to a refuge area help will arrive very quickly.”


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RoSPA commisioned a study and according to their findings; a 16 ton truck's braking distance is close to double that of a car, and a 42 ton truck requires around 4 times braking distance.
Chris Harrison Gloucestershire

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)

Lanes are used very inefficiently as many drivers do not seem to understand how to use them properly. We seem to do everything but the one thing that would help improve all problems on all roads - improve the standard of driving.
Dave Taylor, Guildford

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)

Bob, I don't know what the 4 'disagree's' were, but your comments apply whether you have a smart motorway or a dumb one. However, if you have the same traffic on four lanes rather than three then (assuming all other things are equal)the vehicle to vehicle space will be greater.

Also, rarely does a vehicle stop instantaneously so the breaking distances can add up with the main loss being the thinking distance. All other discussions aside, motorways are much safer per vehicle km (or mile) than other roads due to the layout.
Mark, Caerphilly

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)

Seeing as you asked Bob, even though I have not clicked on the thumbs down icon, I would challenge your statement about some HGVs (surely LGVs these days) requiring the thick end of 600' to stop from 40mph.
David, Suffolk

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

(I was) told recently on a smart motorway to use the hard shoulder. Very safe as I was the only one in it. It seems people are afraid in case they come up to a broken down car. I did, and getting into the nearside lane to circumnavigate it was not easy.

Question: if a driver breaks down on any motorway should they position the vehicle on the hard shoulder as far to the left as possible or at an angle pointing left? The driver I had to go round was pointing left so I could see the side of his vehicle and picked out that he was stationary so could move round him early. This made the back end nearer the next lane! However had he been straight on it would have been harder to realise he was stationary.
Peter London

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)

Four people do not agree with what I have written below. Can I ask them is it the obeying of the speed limit or the distance (40ft behind) or the jack knifing of an articulated lorry, or is it the fact that such a lorry needs so much time and distance to stop? Or is it the quote from the Highway Code of 118 feet to stop they don't agree with? I really would like to know.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

I'd agree with speed being the issue - not the lack of it, or an excess of it, but the issues caused by 4 lanes of traffic all doing roughly the same speed with a fraction of the required stopping distance. Who here has seen the problem of getting over to lane 1 to exit the 'smart' motorway? Also not tackled by this panacea is the problem of lane hogging: now 2 or 3 lanes can be wasted by a single driver.
Phil - Midlands

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

What is also most important is not only to obey the speed limits on such a motorway but to keep one's distance. It's no use travelling at 40 mph if you are only going to be some 40ft behind the vehicle in front. If that vehicle in front comes to a sudden halt having been involved in a collision it will take the driver behind some 118 ft to stop (highway code). Most HGVs will stop in 3 to 5 times that distance and if articulated may almost always lose the back end and swing into all lanes, thus blocking them all.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (8) | Disagree (5)