Today (20 April 2021), Highways England has published its Smart motorways stocktake first year progress report 2021.

The report sets out Highways England’s progress in delivering to its 2020 action plan, a package of 18 actions, costing £500 million, to improve safety measures on smart motorways. It also includes the latest evidence on the safety of smart motorways, as well as a commitment to further enhance safety, address public concern around and improve public confidence in smart motorways.

The Government has also released a statement today, regarding this report.

Mary Williams, CEO of Brake, comments:

“Every death or life-changing injury on our roads is a disaster for someone’s family, and Highways England must be certain, based on hard evidence, that every change it makes to our motorway network helps prevent such a tragedy, and after making a change, it must keep a close eye on safety and undertake a full review of the causation of any crash.

“Highways England has less than 19 years to get to its goal of ‘approaching zero’ deaths and injuries by 2040 on the roads it manages. That time will go quickly, so there isn’t a second to waste.

“Motorways present an important opportunity to utilise life-saving technologies, including those that quickly warn drivers of hazards ahead, and that enable a rapid emergency response. Highways England is grasping those opportunities, and we welcome the government’s further commitments today to collecting more safety evidence about smart motorways - and the news that actions will be taken, to a timetable, that put safety first.

“It is important that consideration of the safety of emergency areas people can pull into, as a replacement for hard shoulders, is a particular focus. Many vehicles on our roads are significantly safer by design than in the past, and some have advanced safety features that definitely help protect people on motorways, such as advanced braking systems, but there are still vehicles out there that do not have the latest safety features, and that are more liable to breakdown due to their age. This is a matter of equity. We need to design our roads so everyone is equally safe, now, as well as for a better tomorrow.

“We also need to focus efforts across all roads to save lives, including on roads with much higher levels of deaths and injuries than motorways, such as many rural roads that local authorities are responsible for.”