73% of drivers avoid left lane on smart motorways

Survey finds 73 per cent of drivers won’t use hard shoulder as live lane, with 36 per cent wanting all-lane running abolished

Motorway

Nearly three-quarters of drivers are avoiding using the left-hand lane when driving on an all-lane running smart motorway, new research has suggested.

Of 2,000 drivers surveyed by Kwik Fit, 73 per cent said that even when the hard shoulder is open for use as a live running lane, they choose not to drive on it. This is up from 56 per cent who gave this answer when the question was last asked in 2019.

In that time, understanding of smart motorway rules and signage has improved, but safety concerns have increased. Some 31 per cent of respondents who avoid the hard shoulder when it’s open to drive on said that they did so in case there was a broken-down vehicle ahead. Meanwhile, 30 per cent of those drivers believe driving on the hard shoulder simply isn’t safe.

A further 19 per cent are concerned about having no escape route if they need to swerve to avoid an obstruction, 17 per cent don’t like driving close to the verge and 15 per cent are worried about debris on the hard shoulder.

Smart motorway roll-out paused

The Government recently paused the rollout of new smart motorways for five years, but 36 per cent of those surveyed said this didn’t go far enough and instead wanted to see hard shoulders permanently reinstated. That said, 22 per cent agreed with the Government’s strategy.

Only five per cent of respondents believe smart motorways are as safe or safer than conventional motorways, as some limited official data has previously indicated. Another six per cent believe smart motorways are more dangerous, but that the increased risk is small enough to justify the reduction of congestion.

Some 12 per cent want to see congestion problems addressed in a different way, calling for the money being spent on smart motorways to instead go into improving public transport. Five per cent think the five-year pause is merely an attempt to take the public’s attention away from the issue, before recommencing the rollout.

Roger Griggs, communications director at Kwik Fit, commented: “Smart motorways have been a huge topic of debate and it is absolutely correct for the Government to pause its development to both gather data and ensure that the UK’s motorways are as safe as possible.

“It is clear that many drivers are yet to be convinced about the safety of smart motorways and therefore there must be clear transparency about all the data being gathered and the evidence on which future decisions are based.

“In the meantime, drivers must ensure they stay protected. Punctures and other tyre problems are a common cause of motorway emergencies. Whatever type of road people are driving on, they can make simple checks before setting off to reduce the risk of experiencing problems. Checking tyre pressure and condition, ensuring they have enough fuel for the trip, and topping up their oil to the correct level will all help in avoiding an emergency on their journey.”

Do you avoid using open hard shoulders on smart motorways? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below... 

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