Widow of man killed on smart motorway blasts schemes

Widow of man killed on smart motorway blasts schemes after report reveals they dramatically raise risk of serious and fatal crashes in a live lane

  • Government report says deaths on smart m-ways rise from zero to 2.8 a year
  • Report recommended an 18-point action plan to improve safety for drivers
  • Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason died on the M1, has slammed the scheme

The widow of a man killed on a smart motorway has blasted the schemes after a report revealed that they dramatically raised the risk of serious and fatal crashes in a live lane.

According to the Department for Transport report, data for the first nine ‘all-lanes-running’ schemes – where a hard shoulder is turned into a fourth lane – showed deaths on the carriageway rose from an average of zero to 2.8 per year.

Figures for overall collisions in live lanes rose more than six-fold from an average of three per motorway to 19.

Widow Claire Mercer has blasted smart motorway schemes following the death of her husband, Jason Mercer

Mr Mercer, 44, was exchanging details with Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, following a collision when they were both hut by a lorry on an area of motorway without a hard shoulder

Meanwhile, serious crashes rocketed more than 23 times from 0.3 per year to seven, and slight collisions almost quadrupled, from 2.3 to 9.1. 

The figures are believed to relate to sections including those on the M1, M6 and M25.

In the 2019 Stocktake and Action Plan report, which used Highways England data, the DfT claimed the ‘risk of a collision involving a vehicle stopped in a live lane remains relatively small’ and overall accident figures for the roads reduced because of the elimination of hard-shoulder collisions.

The report recommended an 18-point action plan to improve safety. 

Last week, Coroner David Urpeth warned smart motorways present ‘an ongoing risk of future deaths’ as he gave verdicts of unlawful killing at an inquest. 

A coroner recently ruled the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to the deaths of Mr Murgeanu and Mr Mercer (pictured with wife Claire)

He ruled the lack of a hard shoulder had contributed to the deaths of Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22.

The men were struck by a lorry after they had stopped to exchange details following a minor collision on the M1 near Sheffield in June 2019.

The HGV driver, Prezemyslaw Szuba, was jailed for ten months for causing death by careless driving last October.

Mr Mercer’s widow Claire said: ‘Smart motorways are a lot easier to turn off than they were to turn on. Just switch them off and stop killing people.’

Highways England said one in 12 motorway deaths happened on hard shoulders. There have been 44 deaths on smart motorways in total. A spokesman said: ‘We are determined to do all we can to make our roads as safe as possible…’

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