AA analysis of potential driver behaviour on new all-lane-running motorways with no hard shoulders, but spaced refuge areas shows that around 10% of drivers would seek to take advantage of an empty first lane – even if it was closed to prevent an accident.
Despite ‘red X’ signs telling them to stay out of the lane, 3% would continue in the closed lane until they saw an incident ahead and 3% would go into the outer lane but move back in if others did and were moving more quickly. A further 3% would stay in the closed lane until they encountered another ‘red X’ sign – women being twice as likely to do this as men.
Faced by the daily battle on the motorway, 14% of Londoners and 12% of AA members in the South East would ride their luck in a closed motorway lane – in particular, waiting until they can actually see the incident ahead.
AA Populus research among 19,887 AA members (18-26 November 2014) also found that the loss of the hard shoulder means that 56% of the sample would carry on driving with a flat tyre until they reached an emergency refuge area or the next motorway exit.
With spacing between emergency refuge areas extended from 800m on the M42 pilot scheme to a new standard of up to 2500m, cars could be limping along for up to 1.5 miles in fast traffic.
The AA has been obliged to adapt its breakdown procedures to protect its members along these routes: calls for breakdown assistance now involve the motorway authorities directly in a three-way conversation to locate and manage the incident as quickly and effectively as possible. As well as the ability to locate most breakdowns by triangulating mobile phone calls (with the member’s permissions), the AA smart phone app can link directly to the phone’s GPS tracker and pinpoint the breakdown.
King adds: “The AA applauds the government’s move to increase motorway capacity – but it can’t be done on the cheap by skimping on safety features. Emergency refuge areas may add to the cost but drivers are more likely to try to get their stricken vehicles into the next safe haven if they know it’s close. Not only does that make the highway considerably safer, but it keeps the traffic flowing – which is the whole point of all lane running.
Driverless car road trials could lead to huge societal benefits – providing they tackle the big issues: acceptance, liability and safety, says IET.
Hugh Boyes, cyber expert at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said: “Driverless vehicles have huge potential to transform the UK’s transport network. They could improve road safety, reduce congestion and lower emissions.