The lack of hard shoulder contributed to the woman’s intelligent death on the freeway, says the coroner

The lack of hard shoulder contributed to the woman’s intelligent death on the freeway, says the coroner

The lack of hard shoulder contributed to the woman’s intelligent death on the freeway, says the coroner

The lack of a tough shoulder on a smart stretch of highway contributed to the death of a grandmother after the car she was traveling in broke down and was hit by another vehicle, a coroner said.

Nargis Begum, 62, a mother of five, had gotten off the passenger seat of a Nissan Qashqai on the M1 in South Yorkshire when a Mercedes car, which seemed to take no action to avoid it, collided with the stationary car. causing her fatal injuries.

On Friday, exactly four years after the crash, coroner Nicola Mundy told Coroner’s Court in Doncaster that none of the drivers of the 153 vehicles that passed the car that was stuck prior to the collision alerted national highways to its presence, even though it did contributed to Mrs. Begum’s death.

Nargis began the investigation

Nargis Begum, left, and her husband (Family Pantry / PA)

Recording a “road collision” conclusion, Ms. Mundy said: “The absence of a hard shoulder and the absence of any report to the national highways to notify them of the stopped vehicle so that lane closures could be put in place. they both contributed to Begum’s death.

A four-day investigation learned how the Nissan passed an emergency shelter on September 9, 2022, about 250 yards and was stuck in live lane one undetected for 16 minutes and 21 seconds before the fatal crash. .

Ms. Mundy expressed concern that many members of the public seem to mistakenly believe that the dozens of cameras installed on smart highways were constantly monitored by control room personnel.

He said a witness told the investigation that he did not report the stationary Nissan because he believes it would be caught on cameras.

A number of National Highways directors and employees, including CEO Nick Harris, told the coroner that this was not feasible and the coroner asked if more could be done to educate the public on this fact.

He said he would write to National Highways on this public education issue.

Mr. Harris told the investigation how the technology capable of detecting more than 80% of parked vehicles within 20 seconds has been implemented on all so-called highways running on all lanes and this would be completed by the end of. this month.

Ms. Begum was traveling by car with her husband, who drove the vehicle, from Derby to their Sheffield home when they suffered some sort of mechanical breakdown and stopped near Woodall’s services.

In a statement read to the investigation earlier this week, Ms. Begum’s daughter, Saima Aktar, said, “We all believe the smart highway system is dangerous and flawed: if there had been a blow, my father would have ended up there “.

The investigation heard that the Mercedes driver, Kantrimas Zukauskas, was initially arrested on suspicion of causing death by unsafe driving, but never prosecuted. He refused to testify at the hearing.

Last year, Ms. Mundy asked the South Yorkshire Police to consider whether Highways England should be charged with manslaughter in Ms. Begum’s death.

In February, the force said the organization, now renamed National Highways, would not be charged after the Crown Prosecution Service warned it did not owe road users “significant due diligence” under the terms set out in Corporate Manslaughter. and Corporate Homicide Act 2007.

Activist Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason Mercer also died after stopping on a smart highway in South Yorkshire, told the PA news agency on Friday: “She (the coroner) concluded that the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to death.There really isn’t much more to say.

“If there had been a hard shoulder, Nargis Begum wouldn’t have died.”

AA Chairman Edmund King said, “The conclusion that the absence of a hard shoulder and the absence of drivers reporting the stationary vehicle to the national highways both contributed to Ms. Begum’s death definitely questions the whole concept. of ‘smart’ highways.

“Roads should not be designed with the lives of drivers who depend on other drivers reporting a breakdown in an active lane.”

Mr. King said the AA had written to the new transportation secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, asking her to follow up on comments made by Prime Minister Liz Truss during the Tory leadership protests.

In August, Ms. Truss said she would stop smart highways, telling a questioner, “I absolutely think we need to review them and stop them, if they don’t work, as soon as possible, and all the evidence I have agrees with the point. what you are doing on smart highways.

He said, “I can’t give you a precise answer on the points, but I think the smart highways experiment didn’t work.”

Asked whether she would stop them, Ms Truss replied, “Yes.”

Mr. Harris told the investigation that although All Lane Running smart highways were acknowledged to have increased the risks associated with cars getting stuck in live lanes, balancing the risks meant they were safer overall than conventional highways.

After the investigation, a National Highways spokesperson said, “Our deepest condolences go out to Ms. Begum’s family and all those affected by this tragic accident.

“Every death on the road is a devastating loss of life and we are absolutely committed to making our roads as safe as possible.

“National motorways have an ongoing road safety campaign program. This is intended to provide important guidance for drivers to make journeys safer, easier and more reliable ”.

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