‘Crucial’: New Highway Code laws needed before major driving law changes later this year

‘Crucial’: New Highway Code laws needed before major driving law changes later this year

03/02/2022

Smart motorways: AA President reacts to suspension of rollout

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Although a major overhaul of the Highway Code was unveiled in January 2022, accident claims lawyers Bolt Burdon Kemp have called on the Government to take concerns seriously. They warn that dozens of fatalities could occur on UK roads if the right checks and legal balances aren’t in place ahead of major driving law changes later this year.

Major road alterations have been made in previous years, including the March 2020 removal of the hard shoulder on smart motorways.

Smart motorways use technology to regulate traffic flow in order to decrease congestion, with many hoping the technology would be able to quickly and reliably detect if motorists are stranded on the road.

However, experts from Bolt Burdon Kemp have pointed out that between 2014 and 2019, there were 38 fatalities on smart motorways where the hard shoulder was removed.

Between 2020 and 2021, motorists’ concerns about smart motorways increased by 50 percent.

The removal of the hard shoulder means motorists who break down might find themselves stationary on a live lane of traffic and could be hit from behind by vehicles travelling at speed. 

In April 2021, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that no new All Lane Running smart motorways would be implemented until better safety measures are in place.

Joshua Hughes, Partner and Head of the Complex Injury team at Bolt Burdon Kemp, called the loss of life on smart motorways “preventable” and “unacceptable”.

He added: “System failures around the effective monitoring of ALR smart motorways such as faulty cameras and other failures can mean vehicles are stranded in a stream of high speed traffic unable to reach a refuge point. 

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“There could be complex arguments raised by those bringing or facing personal injury proceedings whereby a vehicle collides with a stalled vehicle whose driver is unable to find refuge in what used to be a hard shoulder.”  

They claim the introduction of the Automated Lane Keeping System (ALKS) could create a grey area for legal liability.

In January 2022, the Law Commission sought to clarify the situation by stating that any vehicle fitted with the technology would need to pass a two-stage process of approval before it can be used lawfully in self-driving mode.

In this circumstance, if drivers fail to take back control and an accident occurs, they may be held responsible for the accident. 

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