Notepad on Life

December 19, 2016

Smart motorways need education before electronics

Filed under: Motoring — - @ 11:44 am
Tags: ,

 

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Pic courtesy of Patrick Hoesly

Just heard a Spotify ad for something called ‘smart motorways‘. It only entered my consciousness late in the clip but it sounded like something to do with picking your spot to park when your car is in trouble. Apparently there are ‘refuge areas’ for such contingencies now, just in case the hard shoulder may be needed to defuse congestion.

I had to smile. It reminded me of those ‘Green’ campaigns where the little guy – often in the form of school children – is busy jumping through all sorts of hoops to minimise his carbon footprint, while world leaders and their entourages continue to fly great big jumbo jets to their climate change summits, even in this age of video conferencing.

I’m sure the smart motorway concept will already have guzzled down millions in funding. Sadly, I’m equally certain that in all the man hours involved, not once will the elephant in this particular room have been acknowledged.

I use motorways extensively each month and I believe one particular form of ‘smartness’ would cut traffic snarl-ups considerably in this country, given that many traffic queues – as I learnt several years ago – are prompted by a simple wave effect . Something causes a few cars to slow down momentarily and the delay ripples through the traffic behind them until that initial slowing translates into several minutes of standstill further down the road. If you’ve ever found traffic moving normally after a 10-minute crawl, with no sign of any accident, and wondered what the hell the problem had been, chances are  it was that.

And a prime cause of this knock-on effect? Lorry drivers who decide to overtake a lorry in front even though five or six cars are clearly approaching in the overtaking lane. Lorry pulls out and takes a minute to crawl past the one in front, and so the wave begins.

I’m prepared to cut the culprits an inch of slack here, in that I have no doubt some of them work to punishing deadlines set by bosses sat in comfy offices, rejoicing in their new tracking software. If an HGV driver simply has to get by a slowcoach in front and the traffic from behind is relentless, then he can be excused. Too often, though, when conditions are far more forgiving, I see overtaking manoeuvres that could easily have been postponed briefly until a decent gap opened up in the traffic behind.

You want to make our motorways smarter, start by getting the haulage industry into school.

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