A plan from Highways England to install additional emergency refuge areas at smart motorway locations where drivers are most likely to stop in live lanes has prompted road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist to encourage all drivers to put safety first on motorway journeys.
GEM road safety officer Neil Worth comments: “Motorways may be the fastest roads we use, but they are statistically also the safest; there are fewer collisions on motorways than on other roads.
“However, the high speeds used on motorways mean that when there is a crash, it is likely to be more serious. That’s why on average around one in 50 motorway collisions is fatal, compared with one in 70 on all other roads.
“We are also advising drivers to ensure they know the rules and signs relating to smart motorways, which are becoming more commonplace,” added Neil, who says that understanding how a smart motorway works, and knowing what to do if you break down in a stretch of smart motorway, could well prove a lifesaver.
“A serious danger is when there is insufficient time and space between vehicles travelling at high speed. As well as this, distracted drivers – using a mobile phone or device, re-setting the satnav or attempting to eat and drink at the wheel – pose a risk to themselves and those around them.
“Poor lane discipline brings risks – for example, driving in the middle lane when the left-hand lane is empty, or changing lanes without proper observations or signalling. This also applies around junctions when drivers are leaving or joining the motorway. Too often drivers make last-minute decisions, either deliberately or unintentionally, and end up cutting across lanes of traffic to get off the motorway or into the correct lane if the carriageway is about to split.
“Busy urban stretches of motorway are particularly risky, as there are often several junctions and intersections across short distances.
“It’s also important to remember that there are risks when traffic is light. In these situations, there is little or nothing to engage the attention of a driver on a long journey. As a result, alertness can drop and concentration can dip, making it easy to miss a developing hazard.
GEM’s 10 tips for safer motorway driving
- Plan your journey so you know when to join and leave the motorway. You’re far less likely to be taken by surprise when it comes to choosing the correct lane at junctions and intersections.
- Choose a safe speed and use the left-hand lane of the motorway unless you are overtaking.
- Check your following distance by the ‘two-second rule’. Watch the vehicle in front go past a signpost, under a bridge or past some other reference point. Then speak out: “Only a fool breaks the two-second rule.” If you pass the same point before you have finished the sentence, then you are too close.
- Double your following distance in wet weather.
- Scan the road a long way ahead so that you have early sight of developing hazards.
- Make regular mirror checks. If you observe a fast-approaching vehicle, then take steps to move out of its way. Before changing lanes, check your mirrors and blind spots, and indicate your intention to move either left or right. Only commence the manoeuvre when you know you can complete it safely.
- Avoid any sort of distraction. No mobile device, no interfering with stereo or satnav, no eating or drinking. Give 100% of your attention to driving.
- If you are about to miss your motorway exit, don’t make last-minute risky manoeuvres to leave the motorway. Continue to the next junction and turn around, or follow the revised satnav instructions.
- Familiarise yourself with the rules and signs that apply to smart motorways, so that you stay safe and avoid a ticket for speeding or using a closed lane.
- Know what to do if you break down in a stretch of smart motorway is a big help for road safety. Then you will know what to do if you experience a breakdown yourself, and will also understand what’s happening if another vehicle breaks down.