Published: 15th March 2021

The Department for Transport recently announced that they will pause the rollout of new all lane running (ALR) smart motorway schemes until 5 years’ worth of safety data is available.

As well as this, it was announced that existing smart motorways are to be further upgraded with best-in-class technology and resources.

According to Highway England Statistics, since the first smart motorway opened in 2006, personal injury accidents have been reduced by more than half, and journey reliability has improved by 22%.

Despite this, concerns have been expressed by the public regarding the safety of smart motorways, particularly on the topic of ‘all lane running’ smart motorways since their introduction in 2014.

Smart motorways of course have their benefits, however looking at the bigger picture, it is clear that there are many overriding safety concerns which need to be addressed, especially in regards to ALR smart motorways.

If you are not familiar with Smart Motorways, you may wish to read our previous article on Smart Motorways which highlights exactly what smart motorways are, the different types and discussion on their safety.

Why is the rollout of Smart Motorways being delayed?

The rollout of Smart Motorways is being postponed in order to ensure drivers feel safe and confident when using all lane running smart motorways.

This action is in line with the Transport Committee’s recent recommendations which has led to the decision for the rollout of ALR smart motorways to be paused until 5 years’ worth of data is available for schemes introduced before 2020. Following this, the government will then assess the data and make a decision on the next steps.

It has been suggested that the safety risks which are now being addressed, should have been addressed before the initial roll out of ALR smart motorways, and that the available data is ‘limited and volatile’.

In Highway England’s recent ‘Smart motorways stock take first year progress report’ it was stated that the return of hard shoulders would apparently increase congestion, causing drivers to divert to less safe roads leading to more accidents.

However, the recent announcement which will pause further rollout, along with the plan to deploy more advanced technology to improve the safety, looks as though this is the governments justification improve the safety of all lane running smart motorways in the long term, opposed to reintroducing hard shoulders, which some of the public have campaigned for.

Highways England have pledged that no ALR motorways will open going forward without radar technology, which will be able to spot stopped vehicles and enable lanes to be closed where necessary, and get drivers help quickly.

As ALR smart motorways do not include hard shoulders, Emergency refuge areas (ERA) currently appear up to every 1.5 miles.

ERAs are located on ALR smart motorways, and designed to offer a place of relative safety for stranded vehicles. ERAs act as an alternative to hard shoulders on a smart motorway. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents have recommended that an ERA should be placed at intervals of at least 1 mile and every ¾ of a mile where feasible.

This recommendation is justified by the fact that 40% of breakdowns on all lane running motorways occur in a live lane, therefore having more ERAs will inevitably provide road users with more opportunity to migrate into a safe space if faced with difficulties or a breakdown when driving their vehicle.

Our view

We are aware of the benefits of Smart Motorways, such as improving travel times and lowering co2 emissions as a result of reduced congestion, to name a few. However, our paramount concern is road safety, and we believe this should be the top priority over focus on the benefits.

Therefore, we support the governments decision in taking action to improve the safety of ALR smart motorways, and going forward implementing new technology to enforce this.

We sincerely hope that the proposed improvements will drastically improve safety on ALR smart motorways, and that the ongoing work towards making ALR smart motorways safer will be subsequently reflected by a reduction in accidents on smart motorways.

As always, we wish everyone safe travels; however, if you or any of your family or friends are involved in an accident on the roads and require legal assistance from a Top Tier Legal 500 rated law firm, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We can be contacted on 0330 058 0377 for a free, confidential conversation with a specialist serious injury solicitor. Alternatively, please send us your contact details to, and one of our team will be in touch. All enquiries are free and confidential.

Reference Material: Much of the factual information provided here was taken from, along with RAC and RoSPA as shown above.