Smart Motorway stopped vehicle technology could be installed six months earlier than planned

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says plans to install potentially life-saving ‘stopped vehicle detection technology’ on smart motorways could be put in place as early as September 2022 – six months earlier than planned.

Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 2:34 pm
Updated Wednesday, 21st April 2021, 2:44 pm

Stopped vehicle detection reduces the amount of time for control room operators to be notified of problems, and allows staff to send help faster.

The controversial smart motorways in South Yorkshire run on the M1 between junctions 32 and 35a.

Mr Shapps added that no new smart motorways will be built without the technology in place, but insisted that “fatal casualties are less likely on all lane running motorways than on conventional ones.”

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Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu died in a collision on the M1 smart motorway near Meadowhall.
Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu died in a collision on the M1 smart motorway near Meadowhall.

In a statement, Mr Shapps wrote: “The data contained in the Highways England progress report continues to show that fatal casualties are less likely on all lane running motorways than on conventional ones, but we know drivers can feel less safe on roads without hard shoulders, which is why the progress report, published today, intends to accelerate a number of actions to provide reassurance to drivers.

“We have changed the law to enable automatic detection of vehicles driving in closed lanes, known as red X violations.

“Highways England is upgrading all enforcement cameras across the smart motorway network to enable automatic detection of red X violations which can then be enforced by the police.”

Jason Mercer, 44, from Rotherham and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, were killed when a lorry driven by 40-year-old Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles after they stopped to exchange details following a minor collision.

Mr Mercer’s widow Claire has campaigned to have smart motorways scrapped since her husband’s death in June 2019.

Helen Smith, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Claire Mercer, said: “The issues around smart motorways safety are well documented and the need for change is obvious.

“We will now fully scrutinise the detail of this announcement and whether these proposals go far enough or whether potential legal action is necessary.

“We’re determined to support Claire in her campaign to improve safety on smart motorways.”