Widow backed in legal fight over husband's death on smart motorway near Sheffield

A grieving widow’s legal fight against highways bosses after her husband died on a smart motorway near Sheffield has got Star readers talking.

Thursday, 17th October 2019, 8:23 am
Updated Tuesday, 22nd October 2019, 4:18 pm

Jason Mercer, aged 44, from Broom, Rotherham, and Alexandru Murgeanu, aged 22, from Mansfield, died in June when they were hit by a lorry after pulling over following a collision on the northbound M1 between Junction 34 for Meadowhall and 35 for Thorpe Hesley.

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The HGV driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and bailed pending further enquiries. Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu were among four people to die on the same 16-mile stretch of the M1 within 10 months.

Claire and Jason Mercer.

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Mr Mercer’s wife Claire is taking legal action claiming the government-run Highways England does not have adequate technology to detect stranded vehicles and divert traffic on stretches of motorways where hard shoulders have been turned into extra lanes to reduce congestion.

The move has sparked a lot of debate among Star readers, many of which have taken to Facebook to make their feelings known.

Andy Layhe wished Mrs Mercer “good luck” and added: “It (is) time to put back the hard shoulder.”

Roy Saywell added: “When the engine cuts out and you have no power you have no option to stop in a live lane with no hard shoulder.”

Carole Hudsons posted: “they have removed the hard shoulder, that is what makes these so called smart motorways dangerous.”

Mrs Mercer revealed on Twitter that she has raised the £2000 required to ‘start the legal process’.

She is calling for smart motorways to be scrapped and warned that plans to extend them will result in more deaths.

Last September a 62-year-old woman was killed when a Nissan Qashqai she was a passenger in broke down on the northbound M1 about one mile north of Woodall Services.

Both the driver and passenger got out of the Qashqai and a few minutes later a black Mercedes E-class was involved in a collision with the stationary Qashqai, which then collided with the 62-year-old woman.

In March, Derek Jacobs, aged 83, was killed when his Volkswagen Crafter stopped in the first lane of the northbound M1 in Derbyshire after getting a puncture.

His vehicle was struck by a coach and the retired engineer was crushed against a barrier.

Mrs Mercer has since set up a Facebook page and a website – smartmotorwayskill.co.uk – as part of her campaign.

In a statement, Highways England previously said: “Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved in the incident on Friday, June 7.

“Safety is our top priority and we will continue to evaluate all lane running schemes and work closely with all the emergency services to ensure safety is maintained.

“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.

“Police investigations are still ongoing into the incidents on the M1 so it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to comment further until these have concluded.”