Woman to sue Highways England over death of husband on smart motorway after four fatal collisions between Sheffield and north Derbyshire

A woman whose husband died in a crash on a smart motorway near Sheffield is to sue Highways England for corporate manslaughter.

Tuesday, 3rd September 2019, 7:30 am
Claire and Jason Mercer

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason died in a crash on the M1 near Meadowhall, is taking legal action claiming the government-run company 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.

Mr Mercer, aged 44, from Broom, Rotherham and Alexandru Murgeanu, 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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They were exchanging insurance details when they were struck by a lorry.

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The HGV driver was arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving and was bailed pending further enquiries.

Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu were among four people to die on the same 16-mile stretch of the M1 in 10 months.

Today, Mr Mercer’s wife, Claire, 43, has called for smart motorways to be scrapped and warned that plans to extend smart motorways will result in more deaths.

Last September a 62-year-old woman as 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, 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 said: “I want smart motorways scrapped. I am going down the corporate manslaughter route to get people to listen and I know it will take a long time but my husband is going to be a long time dead. I have all the time it takes.

“In the meantime I want motorways scrapped immediately and an independent body to come in and do a report on all the collisions there have been on smart motorways up and down the country.

“There just is not enough awareness of them, what they mean and how they work.

“We should not just accept what Highways England tells us about smart motorways to justify them. An independent body needs to scrutinise all the collisions there have been up and down the country.

“I refuse to accept that smart motorways are safer – how can they be? There is no safe refuge for anyone to go if anyone is stranded or involved in a collision other than a small space every one and a half miles.

“How many more people have to die before something is done?”

Mrs Mercer said she is still picking up the ‘shattered pieces’ of her life after the loss of her husband and will spend as long as it takes to ensure he did not die in vain.”

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

Highways England 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.”