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AA not convinced smart motorway review will fix issues as 38 drivers killed in four years

38 people have been killed on the road over the past five years (Image: Nottingham Post)

AA experts have called on emergency refuge areas to be installed across every 1,200 metres (m) of smart motorway roads as a minimum. Their comments come after an AA survey revealed the majority of motorists do not feel safe on smart motorway networks.

Just nine percent of road users said they felt safe or relaxed on the roads, while 15 percent revealed they would like to see the scheme completely scrapped.

A total of 42 percent of motorists would like to see the building of smart motorways halted until a review into their safety has concluded.

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AA’s poll showed 57 percent felt they had not been well informed about the different types of smart motorway and 18 percent said they didn’t understand what a dynamic hard shoulder even was.

Edmund King, AA President said a better design of road would result in fewer deaths and claimed corners had been cut on developing the networks to save money.

READ MORE: Smart motorway: Highways England could upgrade smart roads

He added: “Drivers don’t trust smart motorways and with 38 percent of breakdowns occurring in live lanes that is not surprising.

“There is much confusion and fear out there. If the Government is not going back to the drawing board to reinstate the hard shoulder, then the least they can do is to double the number of emergency refuge areas to every three-quarters of a mile.

“The current system is not fit for purpose and too many tragic and avoidable deaths are occurring.”

The AA President claimed smart motorways were extended after a successful trial of the scheme on the M42.

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However, he claimed the goalposts had since moved since the pilot scheme where emergency bays were installed every 500m before being pushed back to every 2,500m across some major roads.

A Freedom of Information Act request sent by BBC’s Panorama has revealed 38 people were killed on smart motorways over the past five years.

The data revealed there have been 20 times as many near-miss incidents on one stretch of M25 since the hard shoulder was removed in 2014.

Highways England boss Jim O’ Sullivan said all-lane running smart motorway networks were too confusing for motorists back in October.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said he knows people are dying on the roads and announced a safety review into the programme just months ago.

Findings of the review are expected shortly and could see transport chiefs change direction on the roads.

Car detection systems which can spot broken down cars as soon as they break down could be installed across the whole smart motorway network over the next three years.

The government could also stop building more of the dynamic hard shoulders which can be used as a live lane to help filter traffic.

More emergency refuge areas are also set to be built so those suffering car difficulties have more opportunities to bring their car to safety.

Speaking to Panorama, Mr Shapps said he wanted to fix the issues surrounding smart networks and claimed the roads should be safer than traditional motorways.

Mr King added: “The Panorama investigation clearly shows that the police, the AA and even the Transport Minister responsible for roads at the time, say the system is flawed and dangerous and must be changed. Coroners have repeated this message after needless deaths.”

The BBC’s investigation also revealed a warning sign on a stretch of smart motorway on the M25 had not been working for 336 days.

Previous AA research revealed it can sometimes take 17 minutes for cameras to detect a broken down vehicle using on-site cameras and an extra 17 minutes to reach the scene of the crash.

Because smart motorways do not have separate hard shoulders, motorists are sometimes left sitting in their vehicles for more than half an hour on live motorway roads – creating a safety risk.

AA recovery teams are instructed to never stop next to a broken down vehicle on a smart motorway for safety reasons. Recovery crews must instead wait for a stricken car to be towed by Higwhays England crews before a vehicle can be worked on.

Express.co.uk have contacted Highways England for comment.

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