Smart motorways were condemned as a ‘death trap’ on Day 2 of the Federation’s Roads Policing Conference.
During a panel debate, which was attended by Mick Smith from Cambridgeshire Police Federation, the Government was urged to act before more lives were lost.
“The Police Federation’s view is that these roads are death traps not just for the public but the officers who police them. Statistics seem to show fatalities may have reduced but near misses have increased hugely and they are ‘fatals waiting to happen’. The fear is traffic flow is more important than road safety,” explained Mick.
He continued: “All studies show if you break down in a live lane of a smart motorway you are much more likely to be involved in a collision than if you were on a motorway with a hard shoulder. Research shows that up to 20 per cent of drivers on the M25 ignore the red cross signs and this is the only protection vehicles have on smart motorways.
“An AA study also shows 36 per cent of drivers do not use lane one of smart motorways because of the fear of broken-down vehicle being in the lane.
“All the added risk means many forces are having to spend more time on these roads when they do not necessarily have the resources to do so, especially where forces have combined roles, such as RPU/firearms.”
The panel was made up of Edmund King, president of the Automobile Association and Nicholas Lyes, public affairs manager at the RAC.
No-one on the panel offered any defence for smart motorways.
Other conference sessions on the second day of the two-day conference held in Kenilworth on Tuesday and Wednesday this week 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 pursuits 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.
Mick explains: “There was recognition from all areas that judging police drivers to the ‘careful and competent’ test when they have been trained to a much higher standard was wrong. The new Police Powers and Protections Bill will change this. The ‘powers’ part was added so that they could look at any extra powers the police needed to protect the public.
“The main interest though is the new test for police drivers and this will hold police drivers accountable to the ‘level at which they are trained’ and against their similarly trained peers rather than just Joe Public, who have not had extra training.
“It will include response driving, not just pursuits. At this time, it will just be police as they didn’t want to complicate matters by include other emergency services but this is likely to follow at a later date with amendments. The legislation will also set the standards to which officers need to be trained in order to benefit from the protection of this new test.
“Time of introduction is unclear but it has now been in the Queen’s Speech twice, which shows the importance of it to the current administration.”
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.
It was also announced that the Department for Transport has launched a questionnaire designed to gather information for the Government’s roads policing review.