‘Hard shoulder running’ will confuse drivers78% of UK drivers expect motorway confusion

27 January 2009

BMW 7 Series

Fun for drivers and passengers

Three-quarters of UK motorists believe that proposals to use the motorway hard shoulder as an extra lane during peak times will create confusion.

For the latest news and deals, sign up to the Which? Car email

That’s the claim of a survey undertaken by FlyResearch on behalf of Esure car insurance. From a poll of 1,000 motorists across the country in April 2008, Esure projects that some 26 million people (based on 2006 Department for Transport statistics) hold this fear – 78% of UK car drivers.

Hard-shoulder confusion

The use of the hard shoulder during busy periods has been dubbed ‘hard shoulder running’. Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has approved its use on sections of the M1, M6, M25 and M62 – motorways previously considered for widening.

The concerns over such schemes are at least three-fold.

First, motorists’ existing confusion over the use of the hard shoulder – according to the same survey 17% of drivers already think it’s 'legal to use any hard shoulder in heavy traffic' – will be exacerbated. Hard-shoulder running periods will have to be carefully signed and policed.

Second, if regular traffic is using all the available space on the motorway, there will be no excess capacity for emergency vehicles to use in order to respond to crisis more quickly. 85% of survey respondent were ‘concerned that emergency services could be prevented from reaching their destinations.’

Thirdly, the hard shoulder serves a serious purpose as a place of refuge for broken down vehicles. 37% of motorists surveyed have taken advantage of this at some point, and 81% said they 'were worried that the plans would mean that there would not be anywhere safe to stop immediately in the event of an emergency.'

No confidence

Going even further, the survey suggests that 89% of motorists feel safer on the motorway compared to other roads because the hard shoulder is available.

In the Esure survey, 58% of drivers 'wouldn’t feel confident driving on the motorway with no hard shoulder', while 27% would take a different route, even if it made the journey longer.

The government's trials of hard-shoulder running have so far proved successful, although its suggestion to extend the program was criticised last week by the RAC Foundation.


Sign up to the Which? Car newsletter

Sign up to the Which? Car newsletter

Which? Car email

To be kept in the loop on all the manufacturer offers and great car deals we spot each week, sign up for our Which? Car email - delivered to your inbox every Friday, and including all our latest news and first drive reviews, too.

All the latest car news

For daily consumer news, subscribe to the here.

If you have an older web browser you may need to copy and paste this link into your newsreader: http://www.which.co.uk/feeds/reviews/news.xml . Find out more about RSS in the Which? guide to news feeds.