Widow of M1 smart motorway crash victim calls for urgent action

‘How many more have to die?’ Widow of M1 smart motorway crash victim calls for urgent action after two more people were killed on same stretch of road on Easter Sunday

  • Claire Mercer’s husband Jason, 44, was killed on the M1 in Sheffield in 2019 
  • South Yorkshire Police today revealed two further people died on same road 
  • Ms Mercer hit out at smart motorways, asking ‘How many more have to die?’

The widow of an M1 smart motorway crash victim has called for urgent action after two more people were killed on the same stretch of road on Easter Sunday.

Claire Mercer’s husband Jason, 44, died on the M1 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in 2019 when he was struck by a lorry on a section of the road without a hard shoulder.

Another man, Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died in the same incident and, prior to this weekend, at least two more people have been killed on the road since 2018.

South Yorkshire Police today revealed that two further people died in a collision on the M1 northbound in Sheffield on Sunday.

Claire Mercer’s (seen outside the South Yorkshire Police HQ) husband Jason, 44, died on the M1 in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, in 2019 when he was struck by a lorry on a section of the road without a hard shoulder


Jason Mercer (left), 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu (right), 22, died when a lorry ploughed into their stationary vehicles on the M1 near Sheffield on June 7, 2019

Smart motorways use technology to maintain the flow of traffic and some, like the one in Sheffield, allow the hard shoulder to open permanently to motorists.

The latest victims are two men, aged 20 and 22, who died after the driver of a Volkswagen Golf lost control and collided with a barrier and several trees. 

The car then came to rest on its roof at 7.30pm on Sunday.     

Speaking in the wake of the news, Ms Mercer said: ‘How many more people have to die on smart motorways before something is done about them?

‘There are currently four official bodies conducting reviews into smart motorways.

‘When something is already known to be dangerous but it is still allowed to operate, and then when people die, how is that not murder?’

Mr Mercer and Mr Murgeanu were killed when they were struck down by a lorry shortly after they were involved in a minor collision on the M1 on June 7, 2019.

The pair had pulled over to the roadside as far as they could in order to exchange details, however, the lane in which they stopped had remained open to traffic.

South Yorkshire Police today revealed that two further people died in a collision on the M1 northbound in Sheffield on Sunday. Pictured:  The M3 smart motorway near Camberley in Surrey

There are currently more than 20 sections of ‘smart motorways’ on seven different motorways 

Their deaths came just a few months after 83-year-old Derek Jacobs died on exactly the same stretch of road.

He pulled into the left hand lane when his car developed a mechanical fault but was struck by another car, which was then hit by a coach.

The previous year, 62-year-old Nargis Begum died when she was hit by a car as she stood on the grass verge at the side of the motorway.

Mrs Begum and her husband Mohammed Bashir, who had been driving, were waiting for help to arrive when another vehicle then collided with their vehicle.

Ms Mercer and Mrs Begum’s family have since joined forces in a campaign to have the controversial smart motorway system scrapped.

What are the three types of ‘smart’ motorways and how do they work?

All lane running schemes permanently remove the hard shoulder and convert it into a running lane.

On these types of motorway, lane one (formerly the hard shoulder) is only closed to traffic in the event of an incident.

In this case a lane closure will be signalled by a red X on the gantry above, meaning you must exit the lane as soon as possible. 

All running lane motorways also have overhead gantry signs that display the mandatory speed limit. 

Should drivers break down or be involved in an accident there are emergency refuge areas at the side of the carriageway for them to use.  


Controlled motorways have three or more lanes with variable speed limits, but retains a hard shoulder. The hard shoulder should only be used in a genuine emergency.

These variable speed limits are displayed on overhead gantry signs – if no speed limit is displayed the national speed limit is in place. Speed cameras are used to enforce these.  

‘Dynamic’ hard shoulder running involves open the hard shoulder as a running lane to traffic at busy periods to ease congestion.

On these stretches a solid white line differentiates the hard shoulder from the normal carriageway. Overhead signs on gantries indicate whether or not the hard shoulder is open to traffic.

The hard shoulder must not be used if the signs over it are blank or display a red X, except in the case of an emergency.

A red X on the gantry above means you must exit the lane as soon as possible. 

Overhead gantries on these types of motorway also display the mandatory speed limit which varies depending on the traffic conditions. Speed cameras are used to enforce these – no speed limit displayed indicates the national speed limit is in place. 

 Source: RAC

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