Many drivers have serious concerns about smart motorways and their safety, according to new research from the RAC.

The organisation’s Report on Motoring 2019 found 68 per cent of motorists in England believe removing the hard shoulder and turning it into an active lane makes breakdowns more dangerous for motorway users.

A dangerous conversion?

So far, more than 100 miles of smart motorways have been implemented by Highways England, which typically involves converting the hard shoulder into a running lane and permanently removing it in some cases.

Instead of being able to stop there if they get into difficulties, drivers must find their way to SOS refuge areas that are placed at intervals along the highway.

Some 72 per cent of respondents to the RAC survey said they are worried about not being able to get to a refuge area in an emergency, while 59 per cent believe the distance between them – sometimes up to 2.5 km – is too great.

Worryingly, half of people who have used smart motorways did so without being completely sure about what to do if they broke down and could not reach an SOS area.

The news follows previous RAC research that found 23 per cent of motorists have driven in a closed lane on a smart motorway.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “Our research clearly demonstrates that many drivers have some serious concerns about certain aspects of ‘all lane running’ smart motorways.”

Heather Stark, brand manager at The Fuelcard People, comments: “We are all aware there is a need for more capacity on our motorways, but this should not be done at the expense of safety. Motorists need to know exactly where they can drive and when – and what to do should they require emergency assistance.”

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