Smart Motorways – The ongoing dangers

Written 1st May 2024 by Martha Odysseos

 A number of recent news articles have cast the spotlight on the ongoing dangers that persist across England’s smart motorway network.  

Although National Highways re-iterate that smart motorways are ‘our safest roads’, it has come to light that there have been a large number of incidents where safety equipment failed to work adequately.  

The rollout of new smart motorways has already been stopped due to safety concerns, as well as costs, yet the established smart motorway network also appears to be encountering ongoing issues.  

Safety equipment such as radars and cameras are supposed to spot broken-down vehicles which should then notify and trigger the signage to close lanes and where appropriate effectively make the closed lane the hard shoulder. However, there have been hundreds of occasions where this equipment has lost power rendering them useless and arguably dangerous. There have also been thousands of faults in the radar system.  

The harsh reality is that a not inconsiderable number of people have lost their lives on smart motorways since they were introduced in 2010.  

Coroners response

Coroners have previously referred National Highways to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider whether corporate manslaughter charges were appropriate. However, as of now, no formal charges have been laid against National Highways.   

A number of coroners have called for smart motorways to be made safer and there have been written reports from coroners warning about the potential for future avoidable deaths to occur as a result of smart motorways.  

If the ongoing dangers continue and more fatalities result from smart motorways there will inevitably be further inquests which will no doubt touch upon the concerns raised already but the question is just how many before effective changes are made 

Olliers’ Regulatory Team 

Olliers has a number of solicitors who have many years of experience in assisting individuals involved in inquests whether as a witness or interested person. We also have a dedicated team of professionals who have assisted those called before public inquiries including those appearing as witnesses and core participants in public inquiries. Whether you’re a witness, core participant or professionally involved in such proceedings or associated proceedings, the team at Olliers can expertly guide you through the process. 

Martha Odysseos



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