Highways England installs new smart road lights to prevent collisions at key motorway junction


For the first time at a major motorway junction on the country’s road network, Highways England (HE) has deployed smart lights in the road surface to help drivers stay in the right lane, improving vehicle flow and reducing crashes.

HE has installed 175 of the airport-runway-style LED road studs from Oxfordshire-based company Clearview Intelligence to help mark lanes at one of England’s busiest motorway junctions, which is used by more than 90,000 vehicles every day.

The innovative studs are visible up to 2,950ft (900m) away, far greater than traditional reflective cat’s-eye road studs, and they have been proven to help stop drivers drifting between lanes, reducing the risk of collisions.

The smart studs have been introduced as part of a £3m (US$3.9m) project to improve journeys and safety at Switch Island in Merseyside, where the M57, M58 motorways and three major A roads all join. HE has already installed the LED studs at Hindhead Tunnel in Surrey to guide drivers through the structure, but the Switch Island scheme is the first time they have been linked to traffic lights at a motorway junction.

Cables under the road surface connect the studs to traffic lights through a nearby controller unit, enabling them to be automatically switched on when traffic lights change to green. The project is designed to improve the flow of traffic and enhance safety, following 49 collisions at the junction in two years; an average of one every fortnight.

As part of the Switch Island scheme, new 16.4ft-high (5m) traffic lights are being installed so that drivers approaching the junction can clearly see when the lights are changing. Other improvements include changes to the road layout and lane markings, new barriers between carriageways, and colored high friction surfaces. Four new overhead gantries will also display signs over each lane, so drivers know which one they should be in.

“We’re carrying out a major project to improve journeys and safety at Switch Island and are pleased we’ve now reached the stage where our new smart road lights can be switched on,” explained HE’s project manager, Phil Tyrrell.

“We’ve found that some drivers can start drifting between lanes when they travel through the junction and the new LED road studs are a great way of guiding drivers and helping them stay in the correct lane, avoiding the risk of a collision. We’re keen to use new ideas to improve safety and the new smart studs will benefit the tens of thousands of drivers who travel through Switch Island every day.”

Andy Salotti, Clearview’s director of solutions, said, “This is the first time a project involving dynamic delineation has ever been introduced at a major motorway junction on the strategic road network in England. The LED road studs which illuminate in synchronization with the green traffic signals will provide drivers with clear and enhanced lane guidance through the complex junction. This solution will reduce the number of incidents at a key interchange and the subsequent congestion and increased driver frustration which is caused by collisions.”

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.