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