There have been 38 deaths on smart motorways in the last five years, raising concerns about their safety.
Uncovered by a BBC Panorama programme, this is the first time that the number of deaths have been reported.
Figures were obtained through a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by Panorama to Highways England regarding the number of fatalities on smart motorways over the past five years.
The numbers from the request make for grim reading; it revealed that on just one section of the M25 outside London, there has been a 20-fold increase of near misses since the removal of the hard shoulder back in April 2014.
This equates to almost 1,500 near misses. In the five years before conversion to a smart motorway, the number of near misses – which is counted any time there is an incident that has the potential to cause injury or ill health – was just 72.
Smart motorways have been heavily invested in by the government over the last few years; the M60, M25 and M1 are just three stretches that have had sections made into smart motorways.
The idea behind them is to free up a lane in order to ease congestion and increase capacity.
But by removing the hard shoulder, drivers who break down can be trapped in speeding traffic.
It is a frightening scenario and as a result, the network is facing an overhaul, with the results of a government reduce expected to be announced in due course.
It is understood that this will recommend reforms that will improve road safety, with Panorama saying these will include that radar will be fitted over the whole smart motorway network in the next three years.
This will spot stranded vehicles as soon as they break down.
Grant Shapps commented: “We absolutely have to have these as safe or safer than regular motorways or we shouldn’t have them at all.”