Near-misses on smart motorway up 20-fold, figures suggest

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Near-misses on one of Britain’s stretches of so-called smart motorway have increased 20-fold since the hard shoulder was taken away, according to new figures.

Smart motorways transform the hard shoulder into another driving lane, leaving motorists who break down in the traffic.

They were intended to reduce congestion on the busiest parts of the road network.

An investigation by BBC Panorama found that on one of two converted sections of the M25, there were 1,485 near misses since the scheme was introduced.

In the five years before it was a smart motorway, there were only 72.

The former Government minister who approved the roll-out told Panorama he was misled about the risks of the system.

Sir Mike Penning said: “They are endangering people’s lives.

“There are people that are being killed and seriously injured on these roads, and it should never have happened.”

The BBC said it believes the Government is planning to overhaul the network, fitting radar across the smart motorway system in the next three years.

The car detection system – which is currently only fitted on two sections of the M25 – can spot stranded vehicles as soon as drivers break down. Nationally, motorists currently have to wait an average of 17 minutes to be spotted, and a further 17 minutes before they are rescued.

It also said that dynamic hard shoulders – which sometimes act as hard shoulder but can be opened as traffic lanes – will be scrapped.

The Department for Transport said a review into smart motorways announced in October was still ongoing.

Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps told BBC Panorama’s Britain’s Killer Motorway? programme: “We absolutely have to have these as safe or safer as regular motorways or we shouldn’t have them at all.”

Research from the AA found that only 9% of more than 17,000 people questioned feel relaxed or safe driving on a smart motorway.

In addition, just 12% think that smart motorways are as safe as traditional motorways.

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