Highways England launches £5m motorway safety campaign

Highways England has launched what it says is its ‘biggest ever motorway safety campaign’.

The move comes after the Department for Transport pledged a campaign to inform the public about ‘smart motorways'.

Last year's stocktake action plan pledged ‘£5 million on national and targeted communications campaigns to further increase awareness and understanding of smart motorways, how they work and how to use them confidently’.

However, some critics have pointed out that the new campaign is not specific to smart motorways.

On Thursday morning, transport secretary Grant Shapps told MPs: ‘With regard to an information campaign so that people understand how to use all motorways, not just smart motorways, that £5m campaign was one of the calls of the stocktake.’

The campaign includes prime-time TV, radio, social media and digital channels. Highways England said it is ‘to help drivers feel safer on the country’s motorways’ and sets out ‘what drivers should do if they encounter problems with their vehicle – go left’.

Acting chief executive Nick Harris said: ‘This new campaign and its Go left message is designed to deliver crucial information in an accessible way and to help make motorways safer for the people who use them.

‘This campaign is just one of the many steps we are taking to invest in our network with safety as our number one priority, doing everything we can to help drivers feel confident on our motorways.’

Advice from Highways England as part of its announcement includes ‘put your left indicator on and move into an emergency area, onto a hard shoulder, motorway service area, left-hand verge or A-road lay-by’ and ‘on a motorway without a hard shoulder’.

It also states: 'If you are unable to exit your vehicle and get to a safe place, have stopped in a live traffic lane or feel your life is in danger, stay in your vehicle with your seatbelts and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately.'

Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, has criticised Mr Shapps for not providing an update on the smarty motorway action plan, and attacked the use of a song by the Pet Shop Boys in the advert.

He said: ‘It reduces it down to an insult, insinuating that drivers who became stranded were somehow careless. They were not. They were the victims of an ill-conceived scheme, which is still leaving people at risk today.’

Mr Shapps told MPs that he would have the update report on his desk on Friday and would come back to MPs ‘very quickly’.

The campaign is one of many points in the DfT’s 18-point action plan where implementation has been slow.

Other measures in the action plan include expanding the upgrade of smart motorway cameras to enforce red X compliance and an update of the Highway Code to provide more guidance for motorists on smart motorway driving.

However, Highways England only launched a consultation on changing the Highway Code last week and it has also recently emerged that the roll-out of cameras capable of being used for prosecutions will not be completed until summer 2023.

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This article was corrected after it previously, incorrectly, said the announcement did not provide information on breakdowns in a live lane. 

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