Compromising Safety?

  oresome 19:10 18 Jan 2009

Widening of our congested motorways is to be axed in favour of utilising the hard shoulder at peak times.

If you're going to breakdown on a motorway, choose your time carefully.

click here

Time was when our motorways were the safest roads to be travelling on. It's appears we are now relaxing the standards.

  laurie53 08:58 19 Jan 2009

There will also be little risk of ambulances getting through to/from an accident.

If it's a choice between people and money, money seems to win an awful lot of the time in today's UK.

  skeletal 09:59 19 Jan 2009

I am in two minds about this. I use the M42 four lane/hard shoulder section a lot and sometimes it works well and at others it is, IMO, screwed big time.

When it works (I say “it”, I don’t know if it is a dodgy computer program, or half asleep operators) it starts to slow the traffic down, first to 60, then 50 then 40. The hard shoulder is opened and the calm approach means traffic density increases without the highly dangerous hard braking, then accelerating, only to brake again, turbulent traffic flow that usually accompanies the normal overloading of a motorway.

Given this approach, the risk of accidents is reduced and extra traffic can be accommodated.

In such cases I have seen improved journey times through this section and reduced stress due to the constant and steady flow.

That’s the good bit. When it goes wrong you see signs stuck at 50, but there isn’t a soul about; you could have a picnic in the outside lane without a problem. Why don’t they turn them off/increase to 70?

Then the opposite: the hard shoulder is closed, the signs say 50 or 60, but everyone is stationary. Why don’t they open the hard shoulder and reduce the speed limit?

Worst of all, you get a speed change at every overhead sign (they are every few hundred yards): 60, 40, 50, 40, 60, 40. you get the picture. This causes the braking/accelerating nonsense that this system is supposed to prevent!

And another one: the slip road speed limit will be set at 60, so you are doing this to try to filter on to the motorway at this nominal speed (remember it is still very busy so you only have half an inch to squeeze into). This takes a lot of concentration and may mean a slight increase or decrease in speed to slot in perfectly. The next second you are at the next sign which says 50 giving almost no time to slow down without having to brake, which of course is the thing that causes the original problem, again.

And the most scary of all, which happened to my son some time ago, and to me last week, when the signs are set to 20, yes I mean 20.You typically have 1000 lorries half an inch from your back bumper; what would you do? Brake to get down to 20 and risk a severe rear end shunt, or ignore it and go through at twice the limit i.e. 40? (Note: I mean set at 20 with the traffic flowing freely at 40/50).

So, in conclusion, if it is done properly, it does work and is as safe as roads can be. Getting it to be done properly seems to be the problem, at least on the M42.


  oresome 10:49 19 Jan 2009

"Actually, what we've done is greatly increase the standards of reliability of vehicles on our roads."

That may be the case in percentaged terms, although there are now far more vehicles travelling on the roads. There's increased debris as a result of the traffic volumes and I'm not sure we've improved the chances of getting a puncture over the years.

The AA alone attend almost 3000 breakdowns on our motorways each week.

We probably all recognise skeletal's driving experience, but I think this demonstrates a need to increase the road capacity by widening and vastly improved traffic management.

I would favour automatic speed control and distance maintenance operated by roadside devices and receivers in the vehicle, but of course the signals would still need to accurately reflect the traffic conditions at the time.

  donki 11:57 19 Jan 2009

We may have improved the reliability of our cars but unfortunately accidents are still occuring. When I was driving to and from work, around 80miles round trip, there was at least one accident a week, sometimes 2 in a day that I can recal seeing. Using the hard shoulder at peek times means the police and emergency services have even less space to work and absolutely nowhere to put the actual cars that have crashed.

  Fruit Bat /\0/\ 14:42 19 Jan 2009

We may have improved the reliability of our cars but unfortunately -

The standards of driving appear to be decreasing.

  donki 18:05 19 Jan 2009

It does sound very obvious yes but its alot harder to close a lane of traffic that is already full of cars. The hard shoulder was built for a reason and that reason is even more necesary at times of peak traffic.

  laurie53 19:48 19 Jan 2009

"no justification for keeping a quarter of the road's capacity empty"

But the hard shoulder is not, and was never meant to be, part of the road's capacity.

It is designed, and meant to be used, for emergencies only, which might include diverting traffic on to it when a lane is actually blocked, but not as a matter of routine.

Its build specifications are not high enough to cope with routine traffic flow at motorway levels.

  AL47 20:12 19 Jan 2009

i would say keep the hard shoulder for emergencies

its just to dangerous, an accident can happen to even the newest cars, tyre puncture/blowout, collision, icy conditions, i the ambulance cant get there......

nah, its too risky

  bremner 22:00 19 Jan 2009

The point laurie53 is making. I think, is that the physical composition of the hard shoulder itself is very different to that of the main carriageway.

If this is to be a permanent move then the hard shoulders would have to be dug up and relaid.

  Macscouse 22:06 19 Jan 2009

There would be no need for the hard shoulder if we followed the German Law on motorways. There, if the traffic comes to a standstill, drivers have to pull over to the edges, and leave the centre for the emergency services. Woe betide anyone who doesn't comply. In the mid 70s, I used to drive the recovery vehicles on the Berlin Corridor, and if I was towing a casualty, I would wait until I was 200 metres from the queue at the Checkpoint before I switched the horns and blue lights on. The effect was hilarious, watching the drivers fighting to be next in the checkpoint, suddenly remembering the Law as a 26 tonne recovery wagon bore down on them.
They soon move if they have to.

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