Britain’s most dangerous motorway hard shoulders revealed

Dangerous motorway hard shoulders


The motorways in the UK that you definitely don’t want to break down on have been revealed. New figures from the government’s Highways Agency reveal that between 2011 and 2016 there were 403 collisions involving vehicles on the motorway hard shoulder.

Which are the most dangerous hard shoulders in the UK?

If you go by the number of accidents, the most dangerous motorway hard shoulders in Britain were on the M6 with 56 crashes over the five-year period. That’s 14 per cent of all hard shoulder collisions in the UK. Next up was the M1 with 47 crashes, followed by the M25 with 41. Between them, these three motorways account for more than a third (36 per cent) of all Britain’s hard shoulder smashes.

Motorway Collisions
M6 56
M1 47
M25 41
M4 27
M40 20
A1(M) 20
M62 19
M5 16
M60 11
M11 11

When do hard shoulder collisions happen?

Dangerous motorway hard shoulders

Official figures suggest motorways are the safest category of road in terms of deaths, accounting for significantly fewer than other road types. Annually there are around 100 fatalities on motorways every year. Deaths on hard shoulders totalled 38 over the five-year period.

According to the Highways Agency stats, 70 per cent of hard shoulder collisions occurred when a vehicle was stationary. Sixteen per cent happened when a vehicle was pulling off the motorway and 14 per cent took place as the vehicle came back on.

Which are the most dangerous motorways per mile?

When you consider hard shoulder collisions per mile of carriageway, the table takes on a different complexion. The M25 tops the list with 35 collisions per 100 miles of carriageway. That’s hardly surprising considering it’s Europe’s second largest orbital ring road and permanently rammed with cars. One of Britain’s shorter motorways, and the shortest in the top 10 for hard shoulder casualties, is next. The M60 has 30 collisions per 100 miles. The UK’s longest motorway, the M6 ties in third place with our oldest, the M1, on 24 casualties per 100 miles.

Motorway Length Collisions/100 miles
M25 117 miles 35
M60 36 miles 30
M6 232.6 miles 24
M1 193.5 miles 24
M40 89 miles 22
M11 55 miles 20
M62 107 miles 18
M4 189 miles 14
A1(M) 137.7 miles 14
M5 162.9 miles 10

Are smart motorways more dangerous?

Dangerous motorway hard shoulder

Seven of these top 10 motorways have sections that are what’s known as ‘smart motorway’. These are where the hard shoulder is converted into a running lane to alleviate congestion. This can happen on either a temporary or permanent basis depending on times of day and traffic conditions.

Where the hard shoulder is in use as an active lane, there are emergency refuge areas at least every 1.5 miles. However, the RAC has suggested motorways like this are 200 per cent more dangerous than conventional hard shoulders. And an AA survey found that 79 per cent of drivers felt losing the hard shoulder made motorways less safe.

President of the breakdown organisation, Edmund King added: “We do not accept that the current criteria of emergency refuge areas is safe. Breaking down in a live running lane with trucks thundering up behind you is every driver’s worst nightmare. The official advice is to dial 999, which just shows how dangerous the situation can be.”


Mandy Weston

Mandy Weston

Mandy is an ex-mechanic, with 22 years’ experience in the motor industry. As an in-house motoring expert, Mandy is the go-to woman for any relevant questions that our customers have; both garages and drivers. From specific problems with your car to general maintenance, Mandy is a reliable source of information and advice. Her passion for motoring is a huge factor to her success and the huge wealth of knowledge that she has. She now uses her remarkable grasp of the industry to write regular content for our readers to help drivers understand their car better, avoid being ripped off by garages and save money on their motoring requirements.

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