Grieving Widow Sues Highways England

Thu 29th Aug 2019

Smart motorways are under the microscope once again after it was revealed that one 16-mile stretch of the M1 has seen four fatalities in less than a year.

The four deaths all took place after motorists failed to reach a safe lay-by on what is considered a smart motorway, the wife of one those killed is now sueing Highways England for corporate manslaughter.

In June, Claire Mercer’s husband Jason was involved in a minor collision with Alexandru Murgeanu on a northbound stretch the M1 just outside of Sheffield, as the pair swapped insurance details after pulling over they were struck by a lorry and were both killed.

A failure to close the lane in time led to the death of Jason and Alexandru and now Claire is speaking out after a report revealed that CCTV operators took on average 20 minutes to spot stranded vehicles before closing the lane.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, Mrs Mercer, 43, said: “The smart motorways experiment has failed and should now be scrapped.” She warned how plans to nearly double the length of these motorways from 416 miles to 788 by 2025 will result in more such deaths.

“Removing the hard shoulder robbed my husband and Alexandru of a safe refuge. Police told me the lane was not closed after they became stranded. If it had they would be alive today.”

The deaths were the fourth on the same stretch of motorway since September 2018, when a 62-year-old female passenger was killed when the Nissan she was travelling in broke down and she was struck as she got out of the car. In March 83-year-old Derek Jacobs was strucky by a coach and crushed against the barrier after getting a puncture.

Despite the deaths, Highways England maintains that smart motorways are safer, saying: “The evidence shows that where all lane running has been introduced, there have been fewer collisions and congestion has reduced despite an increased number of vehicles using them.”