Smart motorways including M1 to get new technology to detect broken-down vehicles

Plans to install technology to spot broken-down vehicles on smart motorways could be put in place as early as September 2022 – six months earlier than planned, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced.

By Danielle Andrews, Local Democracy Reporter
Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 9:38 pm

Stopped vehicle detection reduces the amount of time for control room operators to be notified of problems, and allows staff to send help faster.

Mr Shapps added that no new smart motorways will be built without the technology in place, but insisted that “fatal casualties are less likely on all lane running motorways than on conventional ones.”

Smart motorways have been criticised because the hard shoulder is either permanently turned into a traffic lane or the lane is switched on or off to traffic depending on how busy the road is.

Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu died in a collision on the M1 smart motorway near Meadowhall.

A total of 38 people being killed on smart motorways in the past five years.

Most recently, concerns were raised when two men died on the northbound M1 near Woodhall – between junction 30 for Barlborough and junction 31 for Sheffield.

In a statement, Mr Shapps said: “The data contained in the Highways England progress report continues to show that fatal casualties are less likely on all lane running motorways than on conventional ones, but we know drivers can feel less safe on roads without hard shoulders, which is why the progress report, published today, intends to accelerate a number of actions to provide reassurance to drivers.

“We have changed the law to enable automatic detection of vehicles driving in closed lanes, known as red X violations.

“Highways England is upgrading all enforcement cameras across the smart motorway network to enable automatic detection of red X violations which can then be enforced by the police.”

Jason Mercer, aged 44, from Rotherham and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, from Mansfield, were killed when a lorry driven by 40-year-old Prezemyslaw Szuba crashed into their vehicles after they stopped to exchange details following a minor collision.

Mr Mercer’s widow Claire has campaigned to have smart motorways scrapped since her husband’s death in June 2019.

Helen Smith, a specialist lawyer at Irwin Mitchell representing Mrs Mercer, said: “The issues around smart motorways safety are well documented and the need for change is obvious.

“We will now fully scrutinise the detail of this announcement and whether these proposals go far enough or whether potential legal action is necessary.

“We’re determined to support Claire in her campaign to improve safety on smart motorways.”

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