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Highways England could face legal action after claims safety warnings were ignored on smart networks

Smart motorway networks claimed the lives of 38 people last year alone as many more suffered devastating injuries. Claire Mercer, the widow of husband Jason who was killed on a stretch of smart motorway in June, is said to have launched a case against Highways England.

Ms Mercer will bring a legal case against the agency in a bid to get the use of smart motorways halted.

The campaigner is hoping to get a police investigation launched to determine whether there is enough evidence to bring a successful case of corporate manslaughter.

She said: “Ever since then I have been adamant that they are confusing, extremely dangerous and kill. To now hear that some of those deaths, possibly including Jason’s could have been avoided if promises had been kept is absolutely staggering.

“I’m almost lost for words as to how this could have been allowed to happen. Highways England should be made to explain its actions or lack of action and the police should investigate the agency for corporate manslaughter.

However, this is not about punishing people. It’s about stopping the use of smart motorways before they are more deaths and other families are left trying to pick up the pieces of losing a loved one in such a needless way.”

Ms Mercer has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help pay for the hefty costs of her legal case.

She has set a target of £20,000 but has already hit over £6,500 just days into the appeal.

Her comments were made after a report from former roads minister Sir Mike Penning said the roads were shocking and careless and had contributed to the deaths of motorists.

They revealed emergency refuge areas were too far apart with many recorded at 1.5mile intervals rather than the originally proposed 500m.

AA officials said the goalposts had moved in regards to emergency refuge areas after they said pilot proposals to have a bay every 500m were not followed across the country.

The All-Party Parliamentary Group review found 38 percent of 51,100 breakdowns on all-lane running scheme roads were in live motorway lanes.

This compared to just 20 percent on conventional motorways in statistics described by the group as a public policy failure.

They found Highways England did not have enough resources in place to deal with live breakdowns quickly enough because stopped vehicle detection technology was not installed across the entire network.

The report found all-lane running schemes should be closed until safety improvements are made and technology is installed across all stretches of road.

In October, Highways England boss Jim O’Sullivan said no more All-Lane running schemes would be built as they were considered too confusing.

Helen Smith, public law and human rights lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, who is representing Claire’s case, said: “We are continuing to support Claire as we prepare a legal case on her behalf, so that roads can be made safer to drive on.

“In the meantime we share the concerns of the parliamentary report authors in that the use of smart motorways should be stopped at least until a full and accurate safety review of them is carried out and the results known.”

Highways England are currently in the middle of an investigation into the safety of the road which could see dramatic changes made to the networks.

Extra camera equipment could be added to help detect broken down vehicles while extra emergency bays are expected to be introduced.

The review comes after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people were dying on the road schemes in October.

Yesterday, Highways England told “Any death on our roads is one too many, and our deepest sympathies remain with the family and friends of those who have lost their lives.

“The Transport Secretary has asked the Department for Transport to carry out, at pace, an evidence stocktake to gather the facts about smart motorway safety.

“We are committed to safety and are supporting the Department in its work on this.”

Original source article: Author: Luke Chillingsworth Disclaimer: This article was not originally written by a member of the Safer Highways team.

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