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Smart motorways present “an ongoing risk of future deaths” and a review into their safety should now be undertaken, a coroner has concluded. Following an inquest into the deaths of two men on the M1 in South Yorkshire, Sheffield coroner David Urpeth said he would write to the transport secretary and Highways England explaining that the use of hard shoulders as a live traffic lane was confusing and dangerous. HGV driver Prezemyslaw Szuba was jailed for 10 months in October last year for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving.
Szuba was travelling along the M1, near to Junction 34, in June 2019, when he collided with Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu, killing the two men instantly. Both drivers had been involved in a minor collision moments earlier and they had pulled over to exchange details. Urpeth said the contributory factors in the two men’s deaths were multi-faceted and included the initial collision, as well as their decision to park up on an active motorway, rather than reach an emergency refuge area.
However, Urpeth added: “I think many drivers would feel they have to stop after a collision, so although unwise, I believe it is understandable.”
He found that the primary cause of the crash was Szuba’s inattention, but he also said that the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to the tragedy.
Following the inquest, the police and crime commissioner for South Yorkshire, Dr Alan Billings, said he had written to the transport secretary calling for smart motorways to be abandoned.