Widow of man killed on Sheffield smart motorway criticises government's safety improvements

The widow of a man killed on a smart motorway near Sheffield has branded government plans to make the roads safer as ‘offensive’.

Monday, 16th March 2020, 2:23 pm
Updated Monday, 16th March 2020, 3:54 pm

Claire Mercer dismissed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps' 18-point plan to combat the number of deaths on the motorways as ‘nothing but compromises’.

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Smart motorways are stretches of highway which see the traditional hard shoulder removed and allow motorists to drive in all the lanes to help traffic flow.

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Jason and Claire Mercer

Claire's husband Jason, aged 44 and from Broom, Rotherham, was killed when he pulled over to exchange contact details with fellow motorist Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, after a collision on the M1 near Meadowhall in June 2019.

A lorry collided with the two men and they were pronounced dead at the scene.

Jason’s widow has since launched a legal fight to halt the use of smart motorways and is campaigning for the re-introduction of a working hard shoulder.

She blasted Mr Shapps' announcement of 18 new measures to make the roads safer as ‘not going far enough’.

The Transport Secretary announced measures he claimed would ‘focus on getting help to broken down drivers much quicker and making the schemes less confusing’.

Government figures reveal that 38 people have been killed on smart motorways in the last five years.

Claire said: “I think it's a whole range of compromises, it doesn't go far enough at all.

“I had half a hope that the government was starting to take us seriously, but this is just offensive.”

Among the measures to be implemented is the abolishment of the ‘dynamic hard shoulder’, which sees the lane opened to traffic during congestion.

The government also plans to use a radar-based system to detect stopped vehicles within 20 seconds and recover them within 10 minutes.

Dismissing the plans, Claire said: “If there had been a hard shoulder on the M1 that day, my husband and a 22-year-old man would still be alive.

“They had to rely on a helicopter to try to get to the scene because an ambulance could not get though the traffic.

“Once there is an accident, emergency vehicles just can't get through.

“These roads are costing lives.”