Yorkshire woman’s emotional admission on GMB after husband killed on smart motorway

A Rotherham woman whose husband died in a smart motorway crash has appeared on Good Morning Britain this morning to encourage others to speak out about their experiences of safety on the controversial roads.

Claire Mercer’s husband Jason was killed alongside Alexandru Murgreanu on June 7, 2019, when they stopped their vehicles on an all lane running (ALR) stretch of the M1 near Sheffield following a minor collision.

The ALR, a type of smart motorway, did not have a hard shoulder and both men were killed when they were hit by a lorry driven by Prezemyslaw Szuba.

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Following their deaths an inquest was told that Jason’s and Alexandru’s death may have been avoided had there been a hard shoulder.

Ms Mercer, who wants ALRs to be stopped, is now calling on others to share their experience on smart motorways to help a parliamentary inquiry into the controversial roads.

The grieving wife appeared on the ITV breakfast show via a video link live from the M1 motorway, she told the GMB presenters that she has not grieved for two years as she tirelessly campaigns to make the public aware of the dangers of smart motorways.

Claire has given up her job in the fight to have the roads with no hard shoulders scrapped following her tragic loss.

She said: “They had a minor collision on the M1, junction 34, they were at a sign that said no hard shoulder for four miles, there was no sign saying there was a refuge area a mile out of sight.

“They couldn’t get out of the live running line because of the crash barrier and they themselves couldn’t get over the crash barrier because there was a 30 foot drop on to the slip road below so they were stranded in a live running lane.

Prompted by presenter Richard Madeley, Claire continued: “A HGV came alone and ploughed into them because HGVs can’t manoeuvre in the same distance that a Fiat 500 can, they never stood a chance.

“So it ploughed into them killed them instantly and even when they were dead across all four lanes of the road and it was a scene of utter carnage, even then the technology didn’t pick them up, it relied on members of the public phoning in.

Widower Claire Mercer talks about losing her husband due to a smart motorway
Widower Claire Mercer talks about losing her husband due to a smart motorway

“They were dead on the road for six minutes before the road was even closed.”

Taken aback by the devastating tale of events, presenter Richard said: “I’m astonished that you’re even able to talk about it like this, how are you now, how are you managing?”

Claire responded: “I haven’t grieved, we are two and a half years down the line and I haven’t grieved, the campaign is a deflection, you know I’ve had two years of counselling to tell me that.

“But at least we are achieving something and I don’t know when and if I’ll ever get to grieve but hopefully this is stopping it happening to other people because the highways England had a very definite policy of not educating the public because then they can’t object to what the don’t know about.

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“So we’ve had to educate the public, we’ve had leaflets translated in to ten languages, we have campaigned tirelessly for two years, I have spent a lot of my own money on this.

I have given up my job I just do this 12, 13, 14 hours a day just sat at home campaigning to educate the public.”

A visibly emotional Richard Madeley went on to question what would happen if a school bus broke down as he called for smart motorways to be scrapped.

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He ranted: “What would happen if a school bus were to break down?” he raged. “And why wouldn’t it? They are not miraculous machines.

“What if a school bus breaks down on what used to be the hard shoulder?

“Which is a very active lane and there are dozens of lorries barrelling down that lane.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about.”

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Christin Hakim

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