Smart motorways: video shows stranded van on M1 close to scene of double fatal crash which killed Mansfield man

A new video showing drivers taking evasive action to avoid a stranded van has raised fresh fears over the safety of so-called smart motorways.

Wednesday, 12th January 2022, 11:30 am

It was filmed on the M1 in South Yorkshire, close to the spot where Alexandru Murgeanu, of Mansfield, was among two men killed in a horror crash in 2019.

The footage, recorded on January 5, just before 7.30pm, on the southbound carriageway, was shared with campaign group Smart Motorways Kill, which is demanding an end to the controversial all-lane-running motorways where there is no hard shoulder.

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A video grab of the near miss on the M1 in South Yorkshire.

However, widow Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason was killed alongside Mr Murgeanu in 2019, said it is not enough and has called for a complete ban.

She said: “It's heartbreaking. Even the people who haven’t been killed – it’s those who are surviving with these injuries.

“We're bringing a judicial review against the government to make smart motorways banned in the High Court.”

Smart motorways, like the stretch of the M1 in South Yorkshire, feature emergency refuge areas and gantries with electronic signs which can be activated in the case of a crash or breakdown.

Jason Mercer, 44, from Rotherham and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, were killed when a lorry driven by Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into them on the M1 smart motorway near Sheffield

But campaigners say this footage shows the intended safety measures often do not work, putting lives at risk.

In this clip, a stranded van is just visible amid the darkness in a live lane of the motorway, with the 60mph limit still showing overhead and no red X signs – which are supposed to appear to close the lane in such an event – not displaying.

One driver can be seen taking evasive action to avoid the vehicle after appearing to spot it late.

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Horrific failure

Smart Motorways Kill said: “All lanes in this footage, recorded a few nights ago, are open according to the gantry and other foolproof systems in place to automatically detect stranded vehicles.

“Yet, not only is there an undetected vehicle stopped in the live running lane, it’s almost completely obscured by darkness.

“And this is at the exact junction where less than three years ago a particularly horrific failure of the smart motorways system led to the formation of this campaign.

“Nothing has been learnt. (Transport Secretary) Grant Shapps, National Highways, Department for Transport, tell me how well smart motorways work. Better yet, tell Jason and Alexandru how well they work.”

The clip was shared by a driver, who wrote: “Lucky it wasn’t busy, but that stretch of motorway is far too dark for that. Hope nothing has happened to the van since I passed.”

David Bray, National Highways smart motorways programme director, said: “Safety remains our top priority and our motorways are the safest type of road in the country.

“We are determined to do all we can to help drivers feel and be safe on all our roads. We will work to make motorways safer for everyone.”

Mr Murgeanu, aged 22, and 44-year-old Mr Mercer died when a lorry driven by Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles after they stopped on a stretch of the M1 near Sheffield without a hard shoulder.

Szuba, 40, from Hull, was jailed for 10 months in October 2020 after admitting causing the deaths of Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu by careless driving.

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