By Tom Payne Transport Correspondent For The Daily Mail
Published: 22:39 GMT, 27 January 2020 | Updated: 08:06 GMT, 28 January 2020
Road bosses were last night accused of 'a shocking degree of carelessness' over the roll-out of smart motorways.
Furious MPs are urging Highways England to halt construction of the new roads for three years so safety improvements can be made.
In a searing report released last night, they described the scheme as a 'gross public policy failure' which puts millions of lives at risk.
Highways England has spent years insisting smart motorways – roads where the hard shoulder is used as a regular traffic lane to ease congestion – are safer than normal motorways because they are built with regularly-spaced refuges where drivers can stop.
Furious MPs are urging Highways England to halt construction of the new roads for three years so safety improvements can be made. Pictured: Traffic on the M1
But the damning inquiry said this lack of a hard shoulder makes smart motorways among the most dangerous roads in the world for breakdown crews.
And motoring groups claim the new roads are death traps which leave many drivers with no choice but to stop in the path of fast-moving traffic.
A total of 38 drivers died on smart motorways in the last five years after becoming stranded in this way, according to a BBC Panorama investigation.
Figures show 38 per cent of smart motorway break downs occur in a lane that is open to traffic – compared to 20.4 per cent on normal motorways.
Some 19,316 motorists broke down in a live lane on a smart motorway in 2017 and 2018. They had to wait an average of 17 minutes to be spotted on CCTV – and 17 more to be rescued.
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