Derbyshire Police Federation

Concerns over smart motorways aired at Roads Policing Conference

30 January 2020

The Government was urged to act before more lives are lost during a panel debate on smart motorways on Day 2 of the Federation’s Roads Policing Conference.

The panel included national Federation vice-chair Ché Donald, Edmund King, president of the AA, and Nicholas Lyes, public affairs manager at the RAC.

John Apter, national Federation chair, had already condemned smart motorways as ‘death traps’.

"The concerns about smart motorways were addressed right from the very start with Sir Mike Penning. Though Highways England would point to the fatalities figures, what you really need to look at is near misses. There’s been a 20 per cent rise in near misses, and each near miss is just a fatality waiting to happen,” he said.

"Seventy per cent of the incidents that are supposed to be Highways England-led, we are attending. Death trap is probably the correct phraseology."

His comments were backed by the panel, which was expected to feature a representative of Highways England.

Mr King said: “A decision was made to save money, and it was known at the time that it would be three times more risky. We raised it at the time, and every year since. People are stuck for more than half an hour on average on a live lane, just praying that a red X goes up. For us, no matter what the stats are… these roads could be much safer.”

Mr Lyes added: “All of the studies, even Highways England’s own figures, show that this is a much higher risk than a regular motorway. We need to look now, urgently, at what we can do almost immediately. For us this means better vehicle stopping, more refuge areas, and faster deployment of the red X. Our research indicates that a fifth of drivers ignore the red X.”

There was also general agreement that smart motorways were adding to the demands placed on police officers.

Asked if smart motorways should be scrapped, Ché said:  “I would rather get to my destination late than be dead.”

Other conference sessions on the second day of the two-day conference held in Kenilworth on Tuesday and Wednesday included an input on plans to change the law to recognise police driver training from Steven Toal from the Home Office and ACC Steve Barry, the NPCC pursuit lead.

The legislative change, which was included in the Police Powers and Protections Bill in the Queen’s Speech in December, follows years of campaigning from the Federation.

Conference also considered pursuit investigations with the panel discussing Post-Incident Procedures, whether Specials should be used in pursuits, legislative changes, the use of helicopters, single crewing, the wellbeing of roads policing officers and the increasing role of technology.

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