Our report into driver safety on all lane running motorways

Royal HaskoningDHV is in the media as the result of an extensive motorway safety report conducted by our Transport team.

The report found that the risk of being involved in a live lane breakdown on an All Lanes Running smart motorway (ALR) in England is 216 per cent higher than on a standard motorway, as there is no hard shoulder for drivers’ refuge in the event of a collision or breakdown. 

Royal HaskoningDHV were commissioned as independent consultants by law firm Irwin Mitchell, as part of their work representing the family of Jason Mercer who died while driving on an ALR motorway. 

Sarah Simpson, a transport planner with 20 years of experience at Royal HaskoningDHV, who authored the report, found that: 

  • The ALR smart motorway has the lowest level of intrinsic safety of all smart motorways.
  • "Best practice” in road safety, known as Safe Systems – which focuses on eliminating the most deadly hazards – wasn’t properly adopted when implementing smart motorways or in recent decisions to increase their implementation in England.
  • People are more likely to be involved in live lane incidents on ALR smart motorways and that when this happens “people are more likely to die or be seriously injured”.
  • Highways England adopted the Safe Systems approach in 2015 – seven years after the Transport Select Committee identified it as “warranting proper exploration for adoption”.
  • The public expected meaningful consultation on smart motorways as they were a “material change to the transport network”. Highways England consults on major changes, such as the A303 at Stonehenge, but failed to do so in respect of smart motorways.
  • The first public or stakeholder engagement on smart motorways was in 2019, 10 years after the first permanent smart motorways opened.
  • There is a paucity of data and analysis that fails to allow direct comparison of the various types of smart motorway.
  • The decision to continue with the type of smart motorway which is associated with the highest rate of people killed or seriously injured is not justified. 
Sarah Simpson

Looking forward, the changes in travel habits as a result of Covid-19 and the insights of the report highlight an opportunity to revisit the role of smart motorways in England – as well as their safety.

Sarah SimpsonAuthor of the report
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