‘Lethal’ smart motorways under attack again after second major crash in three months

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A second terrifying crash on a smart motorway in three months has once again put the supposedly life-saving technology in the spotlight with real fears that the public are being put in danger on a daily basis.

The smash on the M3 last week was caused, according to investigators, because Stopped Vehicle Detections (SVD) equipment didn’t see a broken down lorry on a stretch of the road without a hard shoulder.

Five minutes later a van crashed into the rear of the lorry, leaving the van driver in hospital with serious injuries.

The crash in Surrey also involved several other cars and now investigators are checking if radar signals intended to detect stranded vehicles were blocked by a bridge.

An alternative theory is that the technology had simply stopped working for a period of time.

It’s believed that a failure in SVD also contributed to the death of a woman on the M4 motorway back in March this year.

The systems are designed to quickly alert traffic officers to a marooned vehicle on the motorway.

The smart motorways do away with hard shoulders, but this has resulted in several deaths and protests from the public.

If National Highways staff are not alerted to breakdowns, they are unable to put lane closures or warning signals on overhead gantries to protect motorists.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he had demanded answers about the M4 crash but has failed to take any formal action, reported the Mail.

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on a stretch of the M1 with no hard shoulder in 2019, said: “The Government needs to get a grip on this.

“Had action been taken after the M4 incident, surely this M3 one could have been stopped?

“These roads are just not safe. We can’t carry on like this. We need the hard shoulder back – nothing can replace the safety it offers.”

He added: “You don’t want to break down on a live lane because it’s lethal.”

Despite the incidents, Mr Shapps said National Highways will soon publish new data showing the roads “remain among the safest in the country, notwithstanding the concerns that we all have”.

Radar technology to detect broken down vehicles has been retrofitted to 111 more miles of Smart motorway.

Mr Shapps told the Commons Transport Select Committee the stopped vehicle detection system “should have been part of the plan from the outset”.

He added that “good progress is being made” on improving the safety of smart motorways but he is “impatient” for more action.

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