Footage of smart motorway near miss metres from site of double tragedy

Freeway footage of a car dodging a parked van has prompted a widow to speak out about the dangers of smart freeways.

Claire Mercer lost her husband Jason Mercer in an accident on the M1 in 2019 when he and 22-year-old Alexandru Murgeanu were hit by a truck after pulling onto the shoulder after a minor collision to exchange details.

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However, what they thought was the hard shoulder was actually a live lane opened to reduce congestion, and a later investigation found there had been a delay in updating the signs to alert motorists to the imminent danger close.

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Claire, from Rotherham, has since campaigned for the phasing out of smart motorways and has taken legal action to stop roll-out.

And she has repeated her calls after dashcam footage showed a vehicle narrowly dodging a stationary van just a few hundred yards from where Jason and Alexandru were killed.

The chilling footage, taken last Wednesday (January 5), shows a vehicle driving on the M1 at night.

Overhead signs on the freeway do not warn drivers of stranded vehicles, but a car can be seen swerving to avoid a parked van at the last minute.

The filming driver also has to swerve late in order to just barely miss the broken-down vehicle.

Claire said just the fact that it was late at night and the street was quiet meant there had been no deaths.

She said: “It just keeps happening and this is two and a half years after one of the most horrifying incidents in recent memory.

“They had to send a team of specialists to recover the body parts from my husband’s accident.

“Two and a half years later, a quarter of the equipment at this intersection is not working and this video shows it clearly.”

The government announced last week that it would halt the deployment of smart highways until five years of safety data were collected.

A 16 mile section of the M1 between Junction 32 – the M18 – and Junction 35a near Meadowhall Shopping Center will be classified as a full lane smart motorway.

The hard shoulder has been replaced with emergency shelters said to be about a mile apart, although in some areas their availability is thought to be far less.

Overhead signs indicate the speed limit and whether a lane is closed.

In the disturbing video, shot at 7.23pm, a driver is filmed driving behind a car on the M1 in South Yorkshire, just past the Tinsley Viaduct, near junction 34.

Footage of smart motorway near miss metres from site of double tragedy 1

Unbeknownst to him, a stranded van is parked in front of him near the median, which is barely visible in the dark.

The electronic overhead boards, which should show the lane closed, still tell road users to drive at 100 km/h and give no indication of the imminent danger.

And as the vehicle approaches, he only notices the blockage when the vehicle in front gives a right hex and only just avoids a head-on collision.

Claire, who will soon start a judicial review following the expected findings of the Transport Select Committee, says construction of smart highways will be halted.

She said: “Two and a half years ago we knew a lot less about smart highways. I don’t think Jason and Alexandru even knew what a smart highway was.

“I don’t think they were aware of the danger they were in, but now we know, but it’s still happening.

She added: “It’s heartbreaking. Even the people who weren’t killed – it’s the ones who survive with those injuries.

“We are bringing a judicial review against the government to ban smart highways in the Supreme Court, but they ignored us for six months.”

England’s motorway network has 13 sections of all lane motorways that have no hard shoulder. This includes parts of the M1, M3, M5, M6 and M25.

Outside the M25, staff managing the motorway network do not have an automatic warning system when a single vehicle has stopped in an active lane.

Instead, they rely on Midas (freeway collision detection and automatic signaling) to monitor traffic flow, picking up slow-moving traffic that might indicate a stationary vehicle, as well as 999 calls and calls from the public.

According to the government, an average of 26 drivers a day lie on intelligent highways.

Highways England has been contacted for comment.

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