The AA is urging the government to go further and scrap all existing smart motorways after plans to extend the network were cancelled.
The UK’s largest motoring organisation has joined bereaved families of people killed on smart motorways to axe all of them immediately.
Campaigners say that 75 people have died on smart motorways where the safety refuge of the hard shoulder is used as a live lane to ease traffic congestion.
President of the AA Edmund King called the concept “motorway widening on the cheap” and told the BBC the government needs to reinstate a hard shoulder on the 375 miles of existing smart motorways – around 10% of England’s motorway network.
“Basically drivers don’t trust them, the technology is not fool proof, and 37% of breakdowns on smart motorways happen in live lanes,” said King. “And basically those drivers are sitting ducks.”
Cancelling the 14 new schemes will save the Treasury more than £1 billion. However there are no plans to scrap the existing smart motorways which were first introduced in 2006. Construction to convert two stretches of the M6 and M56 will continue as they are near completion.
Greg Hands, the Conservative party chairman told BBC’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme the government “will not approve any new smart motorways” because of “public” and “safety” concerns.
“And we’re going to keep a close eye on the situation with the existing smart motorways,” added Hands.
Rishi Sunak promised to ban smart motorways during his unsuccessful campaign for the Conservative party leadership against Liz Truss and said “all drivers deserve to have confidence in the roads they use to get around the country”.
Niaz Shazad, whose mother died on the M1 after her car broke down, called the government’s announcement “deceitful political play” and added: “If there was real concern for driver safety the entire scheme would have been scrapped long ago.”
Shazad said: “The supposed scrapping has changed nothing – they were on hold while supposedly data was to be assessed – and heads were turned then also when the small print highlighted those that had been started would continue to be built at pace.”
He continued: “If driver safety is really a consideration on new schemes, then it should continue to be an issue on existing schemes.”
Founder of the campaign group Smart Motorways Kill, Claire Mercer – whose husband was killed on a stretch of the M1 without a hard shoulder – has been pressing the government to axe the “deadly” roads for four years.
“I’m particularly happy that it’s been confirmed that the routes that are in planning, in progress, have also been cancelled. I didn’t think they’d do that.
“So it’s good news, but obviously it’s the existing ones that are killing us. And I’m not settling for more emergency refuge areas.”
The Department for Transport is spending £900 million on current projects to convert stretches of the motorway network. Conservative MP Greg Hands, a member of the transport select committee said: “The only good use for £900 million of taxpayers’ money would be to reinstate the hard shoulder. A single penny on anything else to do with smart motorways would be sheer waste.”