16 Feb 2021

Smart Motorways: Call For Highways England to be Referred to CPS

A coroner has called for Highways England to be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service in an investigation into a smart motorway death.

The news comes following the killing of Nargis Begum, who lost her life after her car broke down on a stretch of the M1 near Woodall Services

With no hard shoulder available – smart motorways have a live fourth lane which is closed when a breakdown blocks it – the driver was forced to wait for 16 minutes before her car was ploughed into by another vehicle, prior to her vehicle striking her fatally.

The controversy surrounding smart motorways centres on the use of a fourth lane as a live lane of traffic.

It is opened during busy periods, to relieve congestion, and closed when a breakdown is blocking it. This, in theory, should be indicated by electronic signals above the road which provide advance warning of a lane closure ahead.

However, with no hard shoulder to seek refuge on, and refuge points with significant gaps in between, drivers have found themselves exposed to high volumes of traffic.

This latest development comes at a time when South Yorkshire Police has requested inquest documents related to two other deaths on smart motorways, those of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu. Their vehicles, which had stopped in an area with no hard shoulder, were struck by a lorry driver.

Police have told the BBC they want to assess the need for “further criminal investigations.”

Highways England has been criticised for the introduction of the road layout, with 38 people killed in the last five years.

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