Widow to sue Highways England over smart motorway safety

02/09/2019
Dom Browne

The widow of a driver who was killed in a crash on a smart motorway is to sue Highways England for corporate manslaughter, it has emerged.

Claire Mercer accused Highways England of failing to provide drivers with a safe place to stop and pull over and neglecting to implement adequate systems to detect a stationary vehicle in order to protect drivers stopped between lanes of fast-moving traffic.

”Local
 

Her husband, Jason Mercer, 44, and another driver, Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, both died in June this year on the northbound M1 near Sheffield.

Smart motorways can convert the hard shoulder into a live traffic lane - known as all lane running. Instead, Highways England provides smaller 'emergency areas' at regular intervals for broken down vehicles.

Emergency areas on the first smart motorway on the M42 were up to 800m apart, Highways England then extended this to around twice as far apart - 1.5 miles apart - but was forced to back down.

Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan has previously said, on the advice of the Transport Select Committee, that all new smart motorways will have emergency areas (previously emergency refuge areas or ERAs) a mile apart, rather than the maximum of 1.5 miles at present.

However this only applies to 'future schemes' from 2020, not an M4 scheme, on which major works began after Mr O’Sullivan’s letter to the committee last January.

In the case of Mr Mercer and Murgeanu it is reported there was no lay-by close and the drivers had pulled over by a barrier to exchange insurance details when a lorry hit their vehicles.

Four people have now been killed on the M1 smart motorway in 10 months after they became stranded then hit by oncoming traffic.

Speaking to the Sunday Telegraph, Ms Mercer said she is seeking a judicial review over whether Highway England’s decision to remove the hard shoulder was a breach of the company’s duty to make motorways safer.

She accused the authorities of 'collective madness' over plans to double the smart motorway network from 416 to 788 miles by 2025 and predicted more deaths would occur if motorway drivers were not given more safe places to pull over.

A spokesperson for Highways England said: 'Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those involved in the incident on Friday 7 June.

'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.'

Highways England has argued its evidence indicates that since opening, across nine all lane running schemes the casualty rate has reduced by 28%.

Highways jobs

Collision Investigation Officer

Transport for Greater Manchester
£26,844.00 - £38,228.00 Per Annum
Are you excited by the opportunity to make a difference to the roads of Greater Manchester? Greater Manchester
Recruiter: Transport for Greater Manchester

2 x Environmental Health Officer (Food, Health & Safety)

Dacorum Borough Council
£31,218 to £39,786 (Inclusive of London Fringe Weighting) + Car Allowance   
Seeking to appoint 2 x fully qualified Environmental Health Officer’s to work within our... Hertfordshire
Recruiter: Dacorum Borough Council

Senior Traffic Engineer

East Riding of Yorkshire Council
£32.029 - £34.788
We seek an enthusiastic and experienced traffic engineer to manage our Traffic Team. East Riding of Yorkshire
Recruiter: East Riding of Yorkshire Council

Head of Asset Management (Regeneration & Environment)

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council
£55,856 - £59,773
We have a current vacancy for the role of Head of Asset Management, and we are looking for a dynamic individual to lead the service Rotherham, South Yorkshire
Recruiter: Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council

Environmental Education Assistant

Brent Council
£22,779 - £24,030 p.a. inc. (pro-rata)
Looking for instructors who complement our enthusiastic, motivated and friendly staff team. Brent, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Structures Asset Manager

Kent County Council
£52,713 - £58,774 per annum (salary dependent on experience) 
If you have the ability to succeed in either of these roles and are able to prioritise competing demands and objectives, coupled with... Ashford, Kent
Recruiter: Kent County Council

Structures Senior Engineer

Kent County Council
Starting salary £33,082 per annum
Providing engineering support for maintenance of highway structures, liaising and working closely across KCC. Ashford, Kent
Recruiter: Kent County Council

Development Management Engineer

Warwickshire County Council
£37,849 - £39,782 per annum
The successful applicant for this post will be capable of taking the lead on work within the team associated with... Warwickshire
Recruiter: Warwickshire County Council

Permit Officer – Place

Enfield London Borough Council
£27,228 - £29,241
You will have the ability to understand and learn relevant legislation and be able to work on your own initiative but also work as part of... Enfield (London Borough), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Enfield London Borough Council

Senior Policy Planner

London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth
£32,643 – £45,704 depending on skills
Are you looking for working arrangements that enhance your work-life balance? London (Greater)
Recruiter: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and London Borough of Wandsworth

Community Services Manager

Copeland Borough Council
Competitive Salary
Looking for an energised and enthusiastic candidate to lead and focus the service through the challenges set by the Resources and Waste Strategy. Moresby, Whitehaven
Recruiter: Copeland Borough Council

Highways Infrastructure and Maintenance Manager - Highways Network

Bridgend County Borough Council
£37,813 - £40,760 per annum
An exciting opportunity has arrived inside the Highway Asset Maintenance Team within the Communities Directorate. Bridgend (Pen-y-bont ar Ogwr)
Recruiter: Bridgend County Borough Council

Business Support Officers - Transport Team (2 Jobs)

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £21,166
Within the Transport Team you will be required to work flexibly in accordance with the needs of the service, which can men... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Transportation Planning Manager

Brent Council
£55,638 - £58,779 p.a. inc.
ou will have an excellent knowledge and understanding of transport policy at both local and national level. Expertise of both people and... Wembley, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Brent Council

Commercial Contract Supervisor

Wirral Borough Council
£30,507 to £32,878
No holding back. No excuses. Just change Wirral. Wirral, Merseyside
Recruiter: Wirral Borough Council

Technical Officer – Pest Control

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£19,554 - £23,836
This job is temporary for up to 11 months from the date of appointment to cover the absence of the current post holder. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Divisional Director Neighbourhoods & Sustainability

Glasgow City Council
£83,708 - £95,232 (LDR3a, Grade 11)
This innovative role will contribute to the Council Strategic Plan Theme of A Sustainable Low Carbon City Glasgow, Glasgow City
Recruiter: Glasgow City Council

Principal Transport Manager

Be First
Competitive Salary
As our Principal Transport Manager, you will deliver the Local Implementation Plan, ensuring the £2.4million TFL budget is used effectively London (Central), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Be First

Highway Operations Manager

Croydon London Borough Council
£43,590 - £45,585
We are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated and well organised highway operations manager Croydon (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Croydon London Borough Council

Structures and Watercourse Manager

Croydon London Borough Council
Competitve
We are seeking an enthusiastic, motivated and well organised manager to look over the structures team and wider Highway section. Croydon (City/Town), London (Greater)
Recruiter: Croydon London Borough Council

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue

Valuing our roads: What is a network worth?

Also inside:

Traffex review 

Diary of a flood.

Beautiful roads

Live Labs exclusive briefing 

View the latest issue

Latest Video