Widower Whose Husband Killed On M1 Near Sheffield Cautiously Welcomes Pledge But Says More Still Needs To Be Done
A widower whose husband was killed on a smart motorway has welcomed the Government’s plan to pause their roll out - but is to still press ahead with a legal case to end their use.
Ministers have today announced it will immediately cease building any more all-lane running motorways (ALRs) while a more thorough safety audit is carried out. Existing ALRs – roads which have no hard shoulder – will see a total of £390 million spent retrofitting more emergency refuges and installing technology to detect stranded vehicles.
It follows tireless campaigning by families and recommendations by Parliament’s Transport Safety Committee’s last year into the use of the controversial roads which recommended the rollout of ‘All Lanes Running’ (ALR) motorways should be paused until five years of safety data is available.
Lawyers represent number of families affected by smart motorway crashes
Expert lawyers at Irwin Mitchell represent a number of families of those killed and seriously injured on smart motorways, including Claire Mercer, or Rotherham.
Claire’s husband, Jason, 44, and Alexandru Murgreanu, 22, of Mansfield, were killed in June, 2019, when they were knocked down by a lorry shortly after a minor collision on the M1 near Meadowhall in South Yorkshire. The pair had pulled over to the roadside as far as possible – and yet the lane was not closed to traffic until after the second, fatal collision.
Claire to continue legal case for hard shoulder to be reinstated
Claire, 45, has cautiously welcomed today’s announcement but still believes they don’t go far enough and wants the hard shoulder reinstating on all motorways. Her legal team at Irwin Mitchell is continuing investigations on her behalf ahead of a potential legal case against the Government and National Highways, formerly Highways England.
Expert Opinion“The issues around safety and smart motorways are well documented and we continue to hear more and more first-hand accounts of how people’s lives have been changed forever following collisions on these controversial roads.
“Today’s announcement vindicates many concerns that accept the rollout of ALRs was premature and tangible action is needed to improve road safety.
“While Claire believes this is a step in the right direction she believes more still needs to be done to stop families being torn apart because of smart motorway collisions. We do not rule out further legal action.
“We obtained expert evidence from a very experienced highways engineer, Sarah Simpson of Royal HaskoningDHV which was submitted to the Transport Committee. This alongside our submissions and other evidence helped produce these recommendations.
“We continue to investigate evidence around existing ALRs and concerns over their safety and we are in agreement with campaigners like Claire who argue that much more needs to be done before the public can be reassured that such roads don’t compromise safety to an unacceptable standard.
“It shouldn’t take the experiences of people like Claire and others we represent to force action and deliver safer roads for all.” Helen Smith - Senior Associate Solicitor
Smart motorways: Claire Mercer's campaign
At an inquest into the deaths of Jason and Alexandru, coroner David Urpeth said ALRs carried "an ongoing risk of future deaths". Jason was found not to have been at fault and was placed at risk of serious injury or death when he broke down on an ALR smart motorway.
The coroner heard evidence from representatives from what was Highways England. The inquest was told that Jason’s and Alexandru’s death may have been avoided had there been a hard shoulder.
Claire is running a crowdfunding appeal at www.crowdjustice.com/case/smart-motorway-jr/ as part of her campaign and to support her legal challenge.
People continue to be killed or injured on all-lane running roads
Claire said: “There is hardly a day that goes by without another story about a crash in which someone is injured or killed or story about a near miss on a smart motorway.
“What happened to Jason and Alexandru wasn’t just an isolated and tragic incident. People continue to be killed or injured on smart motorways and will continue to be without decisive and lasting action.
“While any measure to improve road safety is welcome I feel that this is just the tip of the iceberg. I’m determined not to let Jason’s death be in vain. Each casualty isn’t just a statistic. Behind every number is a story of human tragedy and how families are torn apart and grieving relatives are often left to pick up the pieces.
“I’ll continue to campaign for the reinstatement of hard shoulders as I believe this is what will improve road safety more than any retrofitting of technology.”
Lawyers also represent Nargis Begum's family
Irwin Mitchell also represents the family of Nargis Begum in a separate civil case involving Highways England, now National Highways.
Nargis, of Darnall, Sheffield, a mum-of-five and grandmother-of-nine, died in September 2018 on the M1. The Nissan Qashqai she was a passenger in broke down close to Woodall services near Sheffield. Nargis, 62, and her husband Mohammed Bashir, 67, who had been driving, had exited their vehicle. They were waiting for help to arrive when another vehicle collided with their Nissan, which then ploughed into Nargis.
The stranded Nissan had had its hazard lights on for 17 minutes before the collision. The lane had not been closed to traffic.
Law firm commissions expert report into road safety
Last year an independent expert report commissioned by Irwin Mitchell into smart motorways found ALRs “had the lowest level of intrinsic safety” when compared to any other form of motorway. It also stated that the risk of being involved in a live lane breakdown on an ALR was 216 per cent higher than on a standard motorway, as there was no hard shoulder for drivers’ refuge in the event of a collision or breakdown.
A lack of previous public consultation around the introduction of the roads was identified in the 220 page report which took transport planning specialists at Royal HaskoningDHV more than a year to research.
Find out more about our expertise in supporting people and families following collisions on smart motorways at our dedicated road accidents section. Alternatively to speak to an expert contact us or call 0370 1500 100.