Smart motorways, are they safe?

Smart motorways have been about for a number of years now and in the last five years there has been 38 deaths which surely says there is a need to rethink them. A section of the M25 that has been turned in to a smart motorway has seen a 20 fold increase in near misses since the hard shoulder was removed. The idea of these smart motorways is to open up the hard shoulder to be used by motorists as another lane. It someone breaks down in a lane then a sign on a gantry will illuminate a red x to show drivers that the line is closed, and they need to move in to another lane. This was first piloted on the M42 where the Emergency Refuge Areas were every 500m, without consultation this was changed to only have them every 2500m instead which may have contributed to the number of deaths that have occurred.

It can take up to 17 minutes for the control room to spot a broken down vehicle and hit the button to display a red X, it can then take another 17 minutes for the car to be rescued and bought to safety which means you have well over half an hour of time where you are in a very dangerous position.