Smart motorway accidents have caused 63 deaths in five years

Smart motorway accidents have caused 63 deaths in five years – 24 more than Grant Shapps’ claim of 39

  • Labour used analysis on Highways England statistics which showed 63 fatalities
  • Grant Shapps says 38 people had died on smart motorways between 2015-19 
  • Shadow transport secretary says their families are ‘crying out for common sense’
  • Highways England previously said smart motorways are the ‘safest roads’ in UK

The number of people killed on smart motorways is ‘significantly’ more than than the initial figure put forward by the Transport Secretary, according to Labour.

Last year a Panorama report said the Government said there had been 38 fatalities between 2015 and 2019, which Grant Shapps later revealed was 39.

But Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon told MPs a ‘stocktake’ has shown 63 people lost their lives on the controversial all lane running (ALR) smart motorways over the same period.

Labour says more than 60 peple have died on smart motorways, up from the Government’s figure of 38 (pictured, the M3 motorway)

Labour based its analysis on Highways England (HE) statistics, which applied to roads classed as controlled motorways, dynamic hard running shoulder and ALR.

It comes amid growing concerns over the system which involves the hard shoulder being converted into a running lane.

Several deaths were caused by stationary cars being hit from behind, such as what happened to Jason Mercer when his car was stopped on the M1. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Mr McMahon said: ‘After much delay the Transport Secretary finally published Highways England’s review into smart motorways.

‘The stocktake has revealed that over the last five years, 63 people have lost their lives – a significant increase on the 38 figure given just over a year ago.

‘Victims’ families and campaigners are crying out for common-sense, crying out for action from the Secretary of State recognising that the radar technology doesn’t even capture broken-down vehicles 35% of the time.

‘As the legal challenges mount, will he publish the specific data which compares deaths on the hard shoulder on existing motorways to the deaths on lanes previously on the hard shoulder and now used as a live running lane?’

Jason Mercer, pictured with wife Claire, was killed on a smart motorway when a lorry hit his stationary vehicle on the M1

Mr Shapps replied: ‘I know he and I and the whole House share similar concerns about the safety of our motorways, and one of the first things I did as Secretary of State was introduce a stocktake into smart motorways.

‘One of the factors we have to look at is the level of fatalities on both smart motorways and regular motorways.

‘As I mentioned to him previously, in the period 2015 to 2019 there were 39 fatalities on smart motorways but there were also 368 fatalities on regular motorways.

‘I think it’s very important we look at all the questions he asks with regards the data, and that’s why I’ve asked the Office of Rail and Road to analyse the data and provide reassurance that it can be trusted.

Nargis Begum, 62, was killed on the M1 in 2018 when the Nissan Qashqai her husband was driving broke down on the inside lane in South Yorkshire

‘When those figures are provided, we can therefore compare them to make sure we’re producing the safest possible roads in the world.’

In a progress report released earlier this month, Highways England (HE) described smart motorways as ‘the safest roads in the country’ and stated the number of fatalities per distance driven is a third higher on conventional motorways than ALR motorways.

HE also announced no new smart motorways without a hard shoulder will open in England unless radar technology to detect broken-down vehicles is installed.

A spokesman for the Department for Transport explained the higher figure was from controlled motorways and controlled roads with extra tech. 

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