Cheshire police have released the 999 call made by a terrified dad as his family car was ploughed into by a lorry on the M6 near Knutsford.
Duncan Montgomery was en route to Scotland with his wife Ellie and their three little girls when their vehicle broke down in a live lane of the busy motorway.
In the harrowing audio clip, Mr Montgomery can be heard telling the emergency operator about the breakdown.
He said: “Hello, I’m stuck in the middle of the M6, my car has broken down.
“I’m on the left hand lane, I’m past Knutsford, I don’t have a bearing I’m afraid.
“I’m going northbound and I have my hazards on.
“What else can I do? I have a family of five in the car.”
The Liverpool Echo reports that the operator tells him not to worry, but seconds later he screams “Oh s***” and a loud crash can be heard as a lorry crashes into the family’s van.
The family sustained injuries but miraculously survived.
In an interview with Channel 4 Mr Montgomery told how the family were driving to Scotland, when they were forced to pull over with engine trouble in a live lane on the M6 in Cheshire.
The motorway had no hard shoulder because it was being converted into a smart motorway, forcing the family to stop and sit in their Volkswagen van in the slow lane.
Mr and Mrs Montgomery and their five-year-old daughter Rose were knocked unconscious by the crash.
The dad-of-three woke first and helped his injured wife and daughters despite having a “dead leg” that made it difficult to move.
He told Channel 4 News: “Glass was smashed everywhere, the whole side of the van was halfway across the carriage.
“I got Rose and dragged her into the front driver’s seat where she was throwing up blood.”
Drivers are told to use refuge areas, which can be a mile or more apart, if there is an emergency on a smart motorway without a hard shoulder, and put their hazard lights on if their car breaks down.
Capacity is increased on smart motorways by temporarily or permanently opening the hard shoulder to traffic.
Highways England has pledged to install more emergency lay-bys due to concerns about smart motorways.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England’s Chief Executive, told The Mirror: “We opened our first smart motorway in 1995 and we are now operating over 236 miles of them. They add extra lanes, improve people’s journeys and our experience is that they are just as safe as any other motorway.
“We recognise that as well as being safe, drivers want to feel safe and we will be making some changes to the design including: improved signing of emergency areas and continuing to roll-out orange surfacing.
“We will also, for future schemes, reduce the maximum spacing between these areas to a mile.”
England’s smart motorways include stretches of the M25, M1 and M5.
The Mirror reported that the AA had raised concerns with the government and said a poll of drives revealed eight in 10 think that the removal of hard shoulders on smart motorways has made them more dangerous.
Some drivers have called the lay-bys on smart motorways “death zones”, and others refused to use the old hard shoulder because they fear hitting a broken down vehicle, the AA added.