Smart motorways are so dangerous I’ve considered leaving my job

A group of MPs is calling for a review of “smart motorways”, with campaigners arguing they are dangerous for both drivers and recovery workers.

The motorways use traffic management systems to reduce congestion if there is a breakdown or crash, with a lit-up red cross highlighting that a lane is closed.

Larry Axten, who works as a recovery driver for Automania, has considered changing careers because of the dangers he experiences on the job.

The 52-year-old has told Sky News how he thinks the government can make smart motorways safer.

I am both for and against them.

They can definitely work, but at the moment they are not safe enough for both motorists and recovery workers.

Smart motorways will display a lit-up red cross over a closed lane when there is a breakdown, but I will see up to five drivers a minute completely ignoring them.

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I was recovering a vehicle the other day on the M25.

There had been an accident so they actually shut off the outside lane.

The red cross was up, but I counted at least 12 drivers go through it with not a care in the world.

Image:
Smart motorways have screens that can light up to indicate lane closures

They weren’t slowing down either.

That’s the heart of the issue – the red crosses on smart motorways are not stopping drivers using closed lanes.

Recovery vehicles should have red beacons flashing on them to dramatically improve this issue and our safety.

Highway officers and police have them on their vehicles, and as far as I can see, they are no different to what I am.

Or at least, my safety is just as paramount as theirs.

With the red light on top it would slow people down, they would become more aware if they see red lights, because they will associate it with an emergency vehicle.

You are vulnerable on the motorway, in 2017 three recovery drivers were killed while at work, in 2018 two drivers died in the space of under three weeks down in Kent.

They were on normal motorways, but they could have been saved if they had red lights on their vehicles.

Because people tend to see red, see danger, and they slow down.


                              Smart motorways are so dangerous I've considered leaving my job

Image:
Mr Axten has been a recovery driver for nine years

Recovery operators will pay for their own red lights, it’s not going to cost anyone except for the companies themselves.

I have no idea why we’re not allowed them.

I got out in the motorways in all weather, out in rain, in high winds, I go out at all times of day and in night.

It can be an extremely dangerous job.

The way the industry is at the moment, you’re not getting any young people coming into the industry.

It scares them to come into the industry because there isn’t the protection in place for a recovery driver.

That goes for smart motorways and normal motorways – we haven’t got the protection on any motorways at all.

Anyone can go buy an orange light for their car, but they can’t go and buy the red lights.

I’ve got a family and I want to be around a long time – this is one of the of the reasons I’ve even considered leaving the industry.

When I’m heading to a broken-down car on a smart motorway, often the only thing protecting me is a red cross.

That red cross is clearly not enough and we need extra protection.

The government needs to allow recovery drivers those red lights.

They’re not considering my safety or that of my fellow recovery drivers.

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