Drivers using smart motorways are being warned that orange paint in emergency refuge areas could actually cause accidents rather than preventing them. That’s because the paint risks making the tarmac slippery, particularly in wet conditions.
Leaked National Highway documents showed that concern is cars pulling into the areas could fail to stop and plough into cars or even pedestrians waiting for help, the Mail reported.
An internal email describing a ‘near-miss’ due to the lack of traction on the paint brands it “a high potential incident with high severity rating e.g. if a member of public had been stood to the rear nearside of their vehicle”.
Another email read: “Given there may be a wider problem with other such [refuge areas] using this orange paint, can this be investigated and a solution found?”
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Nicholas Lyes, the RAC’s roads policy chief, said: “Given these refuge areas are short in length and vehicles will be exiting onto a high-speed road, adequate grip is essential to avoid serious collisions when re-joining the motorway, particularly in wet conditions.”
Transport Minister Grant Shapps is said to have demanded answers from road bosses and a full investigation.
Refuge areas are essential on Smart motorways due to the lack of hard shoulders, or hard shoulders being used as live lanes.
AA president Edmund King said: “It is a serious concern that skid resistance might be compromised in some emergency refuge areas due to the wrong sort of surface paint.”
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David Bray, the agency’s smart motorways programme director, said: “Through our own standard internal processes we became aware of an issue involving skid resistance on a small number of emergency areas and we are investigating whether any further surface treatments are required.”
Only this month, research showed three-quarters of all drivers are too scared to use the hard shoulder on smart motorways and avoid them altogether.
The study by Kwik Fit revealed that only five percent of motorists think smart motorways are safer than traditional motorways.
The Government has announced it will pause the rollout of any new smart motorways for the next five years.
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