A new report from Highways England has revealed that drivers who break down on smart motorways without hard shoulders are 216 per cent more at risk than they would be on a normal motorway.

The report looks to shed some light on the effects of removing hard shoulders – one of the biggest criticisms of smart motorways. These more digitalised roads essentially see the hard shoulder removed in order to create a fourth lane, with the aim of improving traffic flow.

But Highways England has said that breaking down in a live lane in an all-lane-running section of road (essentially where all lanes are open) is 216 per cent more dangerous than on a stretch of network where someone could pull onto the hard shoulder.

The report is actually from 2016 but has only recently been discovered by the AA. It also references data from breakdowns on the M25, where it found that the average time it took for Highways England to spot a breakdown from CCTV cameras was more than 17 minutes, with one particular incident taking over an hour to pick up.

However, Highways England is now experimenting with new radar technology on two sections of the M25, which can spot a stranded vehicle far more quickly than a CCTV operator.

A spokesperson at Highways England said: “The evidence is clear that smart motorways improve safety, with or without automatic stopped vehicle detection systems. The latest generation of smart motorways have helped to improve safety by at least 25 per cent.

“Our trials on the M25 have shown that a stopped vehicle detection system can be a valuable extra tool to help spot incidents more quickly, and the technology is being designed into all the smart motorway projects that we start constructing from next year.

“Meanwhile we are looking how we could provide the same benefits on all our other recently opened smart motorway upgrades and work on installing a stopped vehicle detection system on the M3 smart motorway in Surrey and Hampshire is already underway.”