Road deaths call smart motorway safety into question

The deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu could have been avoided, coroner says.
End of the road

A coroner has found that two men were unlawfully killed on a smart section of the M1.

Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died when Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed his lorry into their vehicles near Sheffield on 7 June 2019. The inquest heard the deaths of the two men may have been avoided had there been a hard shoulder.

Coroner David Urpeth said smart motorways without a hard shoulder carry “an ongoing risk of future deaths”.

Highways England said it was “addressing many of the points raised”.

South Yorkshire PCC Dr Alan Billings also aired his concern, writing an open letter to Grant Shapps, the Secretary of State for Transport.

In his letter, Dr Billings said: “I believe smart motorways of this kind – where what would be a hard shoulder is a live lane with occasional refuges – are inherently unsafe and dangerous and should be abandoned.”

The Department for Transport said: “Smart motorways are as safe as, or safer than, the conventional ones.”

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