Wife of man killed on M1 calls councillor's smart motorway comments "damaging"

The widow of a man killed in a smart motorway crash near Sheffield has called comments made by a Rotherham councillor "damaging to a campaign based on safety" after he accused the authority of ‘virtue signalling’ over its stance against them.

Wednesday, 5th August 2020, 2:15 pm

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed on the the M1, said Councillor Carter's objections to the reversal of the smart motorways rollout are "damaging to a campaign based on safety".

Claire's husband Jason Mercer was 44 when he was killed alongside Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, after they stopped to exchange details following a minor collision in June 2019.

Both men were killed when they were hit by a HGV near junction 34 at Meadowhall.

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Claire and Jason Mercer.

Ms Mercer has since headed the Smart Motorways Kill campaign, and is working to bring a High Court legal challenge calling for them to be scrapped, as well as leading an education campaign about the dangers of the smart motorway system.

In a meeting held by Rotherham Council on July 22, Coun Emma Hoddinott introduced a notice of motion to reiterate the council’s opposition to all-lane running using the hard shoulder as a permanent live traffic lane, and support campaigns to get all-lane running reverted.

Councillor Hoddinot cited Ms Mercer's work during the motion, calling her a "tireless and admirable campaigner."

However, Lib Dem councillor Adam Carter, who represents the Brinsworth and Catcliffe Ward, accused the Labour administration of using the council to “virtue signal about an issue over which it does not have control.”

Coun Carter extended his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives on the motorway, adding: “Labour introduced these motorways as a concept and rapidly expanded them when in government, instead of investing in widening motorways at the time."

He called the motion against smart motorways "anti-business", and said that a better approach would be to focus on improving education and awareness, as well as more frequent refuge areas, and campaigning for technology to be installed as soon as possible.

However, Ms Mercer believes his comments are "damaging to a campaign based on safety", and added that the focus on business is "short sighed ".

She said: "I hope he doesn’t learn the way I did, just how dangerous these roads, that none of us knew about, are.

"Until one made me a widow I didn’t know what a smart motorway was, never mind understood the inherent dangers of modifications made in the name of progress.

"I feel it's him using the subject for point scoring, yet he accuses RMBC of “virtue signalling”. RMBC have been publicly objecting to smart motorways for a long time.

"In his objection he states the motion “anti-business”. Business being more important than lives is what got us motorways that have so far killed forty plus people.

"I do believe that education would help in the short term, until we get to court to get smart motorways banned, but there should have been a complete over saturation of media, social networks, tv and radio for an education program before smart motorways even came in.

"People wouldn’t have died purely because they didn’t know how to use these roads then."

Councillor Carter said: "After Labour brought this motion for a council debate I felt that Labour needed to be reminded that they introduced smart motorways as a concept.

"As a country we have a choice to make: expand the motorway network at great expense, revert back to the old system that had its own faults and dangers due to congestion, or make needed improvements to the existing smart motorway system.

"I share the AA’s view that the Government should make improvements to the existing smart motorway system.

"I think we should install world leading Stopped Vehicle Detection systems, increase the number of refuge areas that are clearly needed, and increase education around all lane running.

A spokesperson for Highways England said: “Any death on our roads is one too many, which is why we are determined to do all we can to make our roads as safe as possible.

“We have been working hard to help drivers understand how to drive on a smart motorway and have delivered a number of campaigns to promote safety on our roads.

"We will be taking forward the measures the Secretary of State for Transport has set out - including committing to a national targeted communications campaign to further help drivers use smart motorways confidently and safely.”

To find out more about the Smart Motorways Kill campaign, see: smartmotorwayskill.co.uk

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