Smart motorways to be reviewed following death of Mansfield man on M1

Alexandru Murgeanu was 22 when he died. Picture: Andreea Murgeanu.
Alexandru Murgeanu was 22 when he died. Picture: Andreea Murgeanu.

The government is launching an urgent review into driver safety on smart motorways, amid growing pressure to halt their roll-out.

It follows the death of a Mansfield man on the M1 in June, who died when his Transit van collided with a Ford Focus, and then and a lorry.

Claire and Jason Mercer. Image: Claire Mercer.

Claire and Jason Mercer. Image: Claire Mercer.

Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, and Jason Mercer, 44, the Ford Focus driver from Rotherham, both died after they had stopped on the hard shoulder near J34 on June 7.

Mr Mercer's widow Claire said they had been swapping insurance details after a collision when they were struck by a lorry.

It happened on a section of road where the hard shoulder was used for traffic - and Mrs Mercer has since said these 'smart' motorways should be banned because they "increase the risk" for motorists.

And now the government has said it will be reviewing the roll-out of smart motorways, with transport secretary Grant Shapps telling MPs that "greater detail was needed on how safety on smart motorways compared with regular motorways".

Smart motorways will be reviewed by the transport secretary.

Smart motorways will be reviewed by the transport secretary.

He said: “The house, I know, is very concerned about smart motorways.

“I’ve heard those concerns raised and I have asked my department to carry out at pace an evidence stock-take to gather the facts quickly and make recommendations.

“I think some of the statistics have been difficult to understand, and we know people are dying on smart motorways.

“Understanding whether they are less safe, the same or safer – it turns out not to be as straightforward as members might imagine.

"I want all of those facts and recommendations that can be put into place to ensure that all of our motorways are as safe as they possibly can be.

“I will get this done in a matter of weeks.”

Mr Murgeanu and Mr Mercer died on the northbound carriageway between J34 and J35, just north of the Tinsley Viaduct, at about 8.30am on June 7.

It was on a stretch of smart motorway which was 'all lane running', meaning all four lanes including the hard shoulder are used unless there is an incident.

Following the crash, Mrs Mercer opened legal action against Highways England for corporate manslaughter, saying it does not have "adequate technology" to detect stranded vehicles.

She said: "I want them scrapped. I think the building of smart motorways certainly needs to stop immediately, and be checked by an independent body.

"I keep being advised that it will take a long time; but unfortunately Jason and Alexandru will be dead for a long time.

"It was a minor collision, but it was their legal obligation to exchange details. They didn't know what to do.

"How can it be safer to use the hard shoulder? It's not - my husband's dead."

Mrs Mercer has set up a Facebook page and website, both called 'Smart Motorways Kill', to support her campaign.