The implementation of smart motorways, which will see the replacement of traditional emergency lanes with closer emergency lay-bys, has sparked safety concerns.

AA has raised concerns about the plan to remove hard shoulders throughout the UK, claiming it could endanger drivers.

Concerns were raised after Highways England outline plans to alter some 400 miles of road, increasing smart highways from 416 to 788 miles by April 2025. The measures were put in place to address congestion concerns on high-speed roads.

The government has argued that roads will be safer because emergency lay-bys are safer than hard shoulders. They argue that cars or trucks drifting into an emergency refuge area whereas there is certainly a concern that they may drift into a hard shoulder.

In addition to this the new ‘digital roads’ will also be fitted with new digital overhead signs.

Department for Transport data reveals that since being implemented in 2017, the smart motorways saw only 16 crashes recorded, compared to 29 crashes on roads with a hard shoulder. On the M25 in Kent, assessments reveal a 29% drop in crashes.

Despite this, AA president Edmund King argued that it could be more, not less, dangerous to exit an emergency lay-by than a hard shoulder as it was difficult to get up to speed. He said “Renaming smart motorways as ‘digital roads’ doesn’t mean the system still won’t crash. We are happy to embrace technology but more physical emergency lay-bys would reassure drivers and make our roads safer.”

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