Two people killed driving on smart motorway ‘would have survived with hard shoulder’
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An assistant coroner has determined that two people who died while travelling on a smart motorway would have survived if there had been a hard shoulder.
Derek Jacobs, 83, and Charles Scripps, 78, were both killed as a result of the incident which took place on the M1 near Sheffield in March 2019.
The section of the road uses traffic management methods to try and reduce congestion, and has no hard shoulder for drivers to pull onto in the case of an emergency.
If there is an incident, smart motorway technology is intended to kick in and display a red cross over the lane, telling drivers to move over to an open lane.
Jacobs was forced to stop on the inside lane of the motorway when a tyre on his van blew out while driving.
He remained stationary for three minutes and 34 seconds before he was hit by a red Ford Ka driven by Scripps' wife, Jean.
The Ford flipped on the carriageway and landed on its side, after which it was struck by a coach. Scripps, who was in the front passenger seat, was taken to hospital in the wake of the incident and died two months later.
Authorities launched an inquest into the incident, with assistant coroner Susan Evans delivering her comments recently at Chesterfield Coroner's Court.
"Smart motorways are hugely controversial because of the lack of any hard shoulder for motorists to use in times of need such as occurred here," Evans said.
"It is immediately apparent that, had there been a hard shoulder, this incident would not have occurred because Mr Jacobs would have been able to pull off the live lane entirely."
Evans went on to admit that in spite of this, there are a lot of roads, including dual carriageway A-roads, that don't have a hard shoulder, and heard that Jean Scripps did not appear to take any action to avoid the crash.
“It is evident Mrs Scripps simply did not see the stationary van before she collided with it," Evans said. "For reasons we will never know, she appeared to have not been paying attention to the road.”
Collision investigator Sgt Paul Moorcroft agreed with Evans, saying it is 'highly, highly unlikely this collision would have taken place had there been a hard shoulder'.
However, he pointed out that many other drivers had taken action to avoid hitting the van, adding: "My opinion is that distraction or a prolonged period of inattention by Mrs Scripps was the main causation factor in this collision.”
Nick Harris, chief executive of National Highways, expressed sympathy to Jacobs and Scripps' families as well as 'all those affected by this tragic incident'.
“It is vitally important to learn lessons from every road traffic collision and we will continue to build on the work and safety improvements already under way, taking all the necessary steps to help drivers and passengers feel and be safe," he said.