SMART motorways "present an ongoing risk of future deaths", a coroner has concluded, following an inquest into the deaths of two men on a stretch of the M1 with no hard shoulder.

Sheffield coroner David Urpeth said the primary cause of death of Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, on the M1 in South Yorkshire in June 2019 was the careless driving of lorry driver Prezemyslaw Szuba, who ploughed into their vehicles as they stood stationary in lane one following a minor shunt.

But, recording a conclusion of unlawful killing, Mr Urpeth said: "I find, as a finding of fact, it is clear a lack of hard shoulder contributed to this tragedy."

Smart motorways have been introduced on the M62 in Warrington, with work finishing this month, and the M6 south from Knutsford.

Work is set to start to create one going north from the M6 at Croft later this year.

The coroner said he will be writing to Highways England and Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps recommending a review of smart motorways.

He told an inquest at Sheffield town hall: "I believe that smart motorways, as things currently stand, present an ongoing risk of future deaths."

Mr Urpeth said it was not his role to conduct a public inquiry into smart motorways, but outlined a number of areas he believed should be considered by the Government and Highways England.

He said this included combating confusion among drivers about what to do on smart motorway, especially as many stretches alternate between "traditional" and "smart" running.

Mr Urpeth said it was clear with hindsight that Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu should have continued to a refuge on the motorway, which was about a mile further north, rather than exchange details at the side of the live lane.

But he said: "Although unwise, I think their decision was an understandable one."

Mr Urpeth said he cannot recall seeing any form of education for the public on how to use smart motorways, saying this was a "sad indictment" of those charged with providing this information.

Mr Mercer's wife Claire, who has become a vocal campaigner against smart motorways, cried in court when the coroner said the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to her husband's death.

Outside the town hall she said: "It just reiterates what we've been saying for months - just how dangerous these roads are.

"It was not the result we were expecting but it's very welcome and it's going to help the campaign along."

She said later: "It was shock. We always knew we were right but to hear someone else say it and in this setting and with this power behind them."