A major national campaign to educate the public about how smart motorways work and what to do in the event of a breakdown will launch next month.

The move follows widespread criticism that the traffic management technique – which includes the controversial practice of converting the hard shoulder into a live lane – is not fully understood by motorists.

In October, HGV driver Prezemyslaw Szuba was jailed for 10 months after he collided with two men on the M1 who had pulled over following a minor collision.

Claire Mercer, wife of Jason Mercer who died in the collision on a stretch of smart motorway in June 2019, said it would not have happened if all-lanes running hadn’t been introduced.

Responding to a recent question in the House of Commons, transport minister Rachel Maclean said the nationally-targeted campaign would “increase road user confidence in all lane running motorways, including what to do in the event of a breakdown in a live lane.”

She said: “The campaign concept has been tested on a number of audiences.

“Stakeholders in the recovery and insurance industries have been engaged throughout the process and have helped to shape the campaign.

“Highways England is now in the production phase of the campaign, which will launch in January 2021.

“The campaign will be seen widely across the country including on TV, social media and national radio to ensure maximum reach amongst the target audience.”

However, Mercer said education was not enough: “You can’t educate a broken down car into moving,” she said. “We need the hard shoulder.

“There have been 44 deaths in five years directly attributable to smart motorways.

“It’s going to be a coach full of school children one day.”

Following a review of smart motorways in March, Highways England (HE) has spent £26.4m on building new emergency areas and installing stopped vehicle technology in additional locations.

It has also upgraded 66 miles of "dynamic" hard shoulder motorways to all-lanes running, after they were branded “confusing” to the public by HE chief executive Jim O’Sullivan.

Meanwhile, Transport Scotland is consulting on plans to build an actively managed hard shoulder (AMHS) on a four-mile section of the M8 and M9 motorways, for use by vehicles constructed or adapted to carry more than 23 seated passengers.

It said the plans would reduce journey times and improve journey time reliability for buses.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said: “There are no smart motorways in Scotland and we have no current plans to introduce these.”

The consultation closes on 13 January.