Campaigners are calling for all smart motorways to be scrapped later i revealed that the government had abandoned plans to build new projects.
Ministers paused the rollout of all new routes at the beginning of last year pending a safety review. There have been at least 79 deaths linked to smart motorways, according to campaigners, while official figures show there were 38 recorded deaths between 2015 and 2019.
On Wednesday, i reported that the rest of the £3bn project, which was to see new roads constructed in Greater Manchester, the Pennines and London, has now been shelved for the foreseeable future. However, sources said a final decision on whether the policy would be scrapped completely was yet to be made.
Smart motorways have no hard shoulder and rely on technology to detect broken-down vehicles and close affected lanes.
Claire Mercer, 47, has campaigned to abolish smart motorways since her husband Jason was killed by a lorry in June 2019 after pulling over on a stretch of the M1 near Sheffield.
“It’s good news that they’re committing to wrapping up these new projects. But unfortunately, it’s the existing ones that are killing us,” Ms Mercer, from Rotherham, told i.
Mr Mercer was legally required to pull over following a minor collision with another driver, Alexandru Murgeanu. Both men were killed when a lorry driver crashed into their vehicles while changing lanes.
Ms Mercer said that “lives could have been saved” if smart motorways had been paused years ago. “They’re too expensive to maintain. They’re too dangerous to run. Surely the next step is to stop the existing ones,” she said.
“At first people thought I was just a grieving wife who couldn’t cope with what actually happened. But it could’ve been any one of us.”
This week, a coroner ruled that a crash on the same stretch of the M1, that killed Derek Jacobs, 83, and Charles Scripps, 78, would not have happened if there had been a hard shoulder. The crash took place in 2019, three months before Mr Mercer’s death.
Jack Gallowtree, 35, from Wolverhampton, was severely injured in an accident on a smart motorway section of the M6 near Manchester in April 2021.
He said: “If there had been a hard shoulder I would have had somewhere safe to pull in and call breakdown. Since seeing footage I also noticed that there was a refuge area in the vicinity but due to lorries obscuring the view I had no idea it was there.
“Smart motorways are lethal as when a hard shoulder is present you have a constant lifeline given danger isn’t considerate in the timing it chooses to strike. If you’ve missed a refuge area when trouble occurs you’ll find yourself too far from the next one to make it to.
“These roads will never be safe given we’ve all seen the scandals and word gymnastics that our leaders love to use. There’s no shadow of a doubt the government should abolish this failed experiment. Enough of them, admit that they’re failing roads.”
A government spokesperson said: “Safety on our roads remains an absolute priority and we want all drivers to feel safe and confident while driving.
“We have paused the rollout of smart motorways that are yet to begin construction and we will update on next steps in due course. During the pause, we have committed £900m for safety improvements across the network, including building more emergency areas.”