THIRTY-eight people have been killed on smart motorways in the past five years, figures reveal.
The grim toll is blamed on the removal of hard shoulders, leaving drivers nowhere safe to stop when they break down.
And near-misses on one stretch of the reconfigured M25 outside London rose 20-fold to 1,485 in the five years since the hard shoulder was taken away.
The figures come from an investigation into the 200 miles of smart motorways by BBC’s Panorama.
It also found that one warning sign on the the M25 had been out of action for 336 days.
The former minister who approved the idea said he was misled about the risks. Sir Mike Penning said: “They endanger people’s lives.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “We have to have these as safe or safer as regular motorways or we shouldn’t have them at all.”
Eight-year-old Dev Naran was killed on a smart motorway when he was on his way home from visiting his critically ill brother in Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
His grandad stopped the car on the inside lane of the M6 and the vehicle was hit by a lorry 45 seconds later.
Mum Meera Naran told the BBC that after the accident Dev’s body was then taken back to the hospital where his brother was being treated.
She said: “I had both my boys, one fighting for his life still and Dev just there. It wasn’t right, my two sons, one really sick, and the healthy one left me.”
A Highways England spokesman said: “Any death on our roads is one too many, and our deepest sympathies remain with the family and friends of those who lost their lives.”
Research from the AA found that only 9 per cent of more than 17,000 people questioned feel relaxed or safe driving on a smart motorway.
And just 12 per cent think that smart motorways are as safe as traditional motorway.