There have been too many accidents, too many near-misses, too many reports of people stranded in a live lane, hoping that they don’t become another grim statistic.
The West Midlands is surrounded by smart motorways and while they may help traffic flows they also bring with them extra danger in the event of a breakdown.
There have been repeated calls for action and yet little has been done. It seems the Government is too busy dealing with the many other issues it faces as the nation heads backwards to engage in strategic matters surrounding road safety. Yet more must be done. It is essential that people have confidence to use motorways, in whatever vehicle they use.
The latest group to voice their fears are those who own classic, or vintage, vehicles. They frequently avoid using smart motorways because they know their vehicles are at greater risk of breaking down and therefore pose a threat. They also know their vehicles are not equipped with the safety features of modern cars and that their prospects in the event of an accident would be bleak. In avoiding smart motorways, they are demonstrating the very sense of responsibility that seems to be lacking at the Department of Transport, where officials seem not to get involved.
There are a number of simple measures that could be taken. The next, basic step would be to increase the frequency of refuges so that, in the event of a breakdown, a stricken vehicle has somewhere to go. That may cost a small fortune to implement but it is the very first step that should be taken.
We have again been warned to be prepared for more extreme weather. That should worry a region that is dominated by the power of the River Severn. Ironbridge, Bewdley and Shrewsbury are among communities at risk annually and that risk appears to become more severe, as evidenced by February’s flooding.
Much great work has been done to protect those communities and improvements are promised to defences in Ironbridge and Bewdley. That work, however, is not always a match for the elemental force of nature.
More work also needs to be carried out upstream, with natural damming and managed flood plains among ways to reduce the flow of water. Clearly time is of the essence and we hope these projects can become a reality sooner than later. Lives are disrupted in the worst imaginable way by floods.