Hard shoulder pilot worries safety groups
The Highways Agency (HA) has announced plans for a pilot scheme to allow drivers to use the hard shoulder of the M42 motorway to see whether it will ease congestion.
The experiment will start on 12 September and run for two years. Emergency refuge areas will be constructed for drivers who need to stop.
Road safety groups, including LARSOA, have voiced concern about the idea.
David Frost, LARSOA press and PR officer, said: "This experiment is seemingly being introduced without any research into the likely impact on road traffic casualties, and is likely to cause confusion and distraction to motorway users.
"If vehicles break down - in what will become a narrower lane - then the safety of the occupants of that vehicle and those passing by will be severely compromised. There's also the very real risk that vehicles travelling along the hard shoulder might crash into a vehicle that has broken down, but not managed to reach one of the emergency refuge areas," he added.
"This experiment gives out mixed messages. On the one hand the government says it is committed to reducing death and serious injuries on the roads by 40% by 2010. On the other, it is supporting an experiment that has no clear indication of whether casualties may increase as a result of its implementation.
"By contrast, an 'experimental' measure that could save around 300 lives per year - introducing double British Summer Time - is repeatedly ignored by the government."
Kevin Clinton, RoSPA's head of road safety, echoed those views: "Using the hard shoulder as a running lane may make it more difficult for drivers to find somewhere safe to stop if they break down, as the emergency refuges are only spaced at intervals along the motorway."
The RAC Foundation, however, pointed out that similar schemes work well in the Netherlands and Germany. "The RAC Foundation supports the pilot scheme on the M42 because congestion has got so bad that there is a real need to look at innovative solutions," a spokeswoman said.
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