A RECENT spate of M5 crashes - including one in which a woman died - has led people to question the safety of smart motorways.

However, National Highways has attempted to allay fears claiming they 'are the safest roads' according to data.

The M5 through Worcestershire is a smart motorway and has been the site of several crashes this week.

They include a crash between a car and a lorry in which a woman in her 60s died on Monday (May 16).

A spokesperson from National Highways said: "New in-depth analysis published as part of today’s report confirms that overall, in terms of serious or fatal casualties, smart motorways are the safest roads on the strategic road network."

Councillor Andy Roberts said: "A recent government report said that statistically, smart motorways are safe and I'm sure that is vigorously researched. 

"As a  driver on the motorway, in the knowledge that if I have to stop that I won't be able to escape the moving traffic, that makes me nervous. 

"I know there are emergency stopping points but they are not frequent. 

"If you have to stop as a stationary vehicle I feel like it's inevitable that someone will go into the back of you.

"I don't challenge that statistics but as a driver, smart motorways make me nervous."

National Highways said it was on course to upgrade almost 100 safety cameras to enable automatic detection of vehicles that ignore red X lane closure signals by the end of September.

READ MORE: Horse loose on motorway brings M5 to a standstill

It is designed to increase compliance with the red X, helping to ensure the safety of drivers and their passengers in difficulty, or road workers and emergency services who need a safe space to work.

Traffic on the M5 between these two junctions also came to a halt on Tuesday, May 17 due to a loose horse being on the motorway. 

What to do in an emergency

National Highways have released guidance on what to do in a motoring emergency on a smart motorway.

A spokesperson said: "Go left. Leave at the next junction or service area if you can.

"If that’s not possible, move left onto the hard shoulder or nearest emergency area. Don’t put out a warning triangle or try to repair your vehicle yourself.

READ MORE: Woman dies in crash which closed motorway through Worcestershire 

"If you can, get yourself and any passengers out of the vehicle via the passenger door, and get over the safety barrier on to the verge.

"Keep clear of your vehicle and moving traffic at all times.

"If your car stops unexpectedly and it isn’t safe to get out, keep your seatbelt and hazard lights on and call 999 immediately."