The widow of a man killed on a smart motorway has hit out after video footage emerged of a terrifying near-miss on the same stretch of road. Claire Mercer's husband Jason, 44, died alongside Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, as they swapped details after a bump on the M1 near Sheffield in 2019. Smart motorways are stretches of carriageway where the traditional hard shoulder is removed and is used as a traffic lane. The pair pulled over to exchange details, but because the stretch of road is classed as an ‘all lanes running’ (ALR) motorway, there was no hard shoulder in operation. Although they had pulled over as far as they could, after they left their vehicles a lorry ploughed into them and they were pronounced dead at the scene. Claire has campaigned for smart motorways to be scrapped and has launched a legal bid for their used to halted as she says accidents are common on the roads. And she has reiterated her calls after dashcam footage shows a vehicle narrowly avoiding a stationary van just a few hundred metres from where Jason and Alexandru were killed. The terrifying recording, taken last Wednesday (Jan 5), shows a vehicle driving along the M1. The overhead signs on the motorway do not warn drivers of any stranded vehicles, but a car can be seen swerving a parked van at the last minute. The driver filming the footage also has to swerve late to narrowly avoid missing the broken down vehicle. Claire said only the fact that it was late at night and the road was quiet meant there were no fatalities. She said: “It just happens time and time again, and this is two and a half years after one of the most horrific incidents in recent memory. “They had to send in a specialist team to retrieve the body parts from my husband’s crash. “Two and a half years later, a quarter of the equipment at that junction is not working, and that video clearly shows it.” A 16 mile stretch of the M1 between junction 32 – the M18 - and junction 35a, near the Meadowhall Shopping Centre, is classed as all lanes running smart motorway. The hard shoulder has been replaced with emergency refuges, said to be around a mile apart, though in some areas it's thought that their availability is far less. Overhead signs indicate the speed limit and whether a lane is closed. In the disturbing video, filmed at 7:23 pm, a driver is filmed cruising behind a car on the M1 in South Yorkshire, just past the Tinsley viaduct, near junction 34. Without him knowing, there is a stranded van parked close to the central reservation ahead of him, which is barely visible in the gloom. The electronic overhead boards, which should be showing the lane as closed, still tell the road users to drive at 60mph and gives no indication of the impending danger. And as the vehicle approaches, he only becomes aware of the blockage when the vehicle in front gives a right-hand single, narrowly preventing a head one collision. Claire, who will soon launch a judicial review following the anticipated findings of the Transport Select Committee, says that the building of smart motorways she be halted. She said: “Two and half years ago, we knew far less about smart motorways. I don’t think Jason and Alexandru even knew what a smart motorway was. “I don’t think they realised the danger they were in, but now we do, yet it still keeps happening. She added: “It’s heartbreaking. Even the people who haven’t been killed – it’s those who are surviving with these injuries. "We’re bringing a judicial review against the government to make smart motorways banned in the high court, but they’ve been ignoring us for six months.” England's motorway network has 13 sections of all lane running motorways which don’t have a hard shoulder. These include parts of the M1, M3, M5, M6 and M25. Outside the M25, staff who manage the motorway network have no system of automatic alert if a lone vehicle has stopped in a live lane. Instead they rely on Midas (motorway incident detection and automatic signaling), which monitors traffic flow and picks up on slow-moving traffic that could suggest a stationary vehicle, as well as 999 calls and calls from the public. An average of 26 drivers break down a day on smart motorways, according to government figures. Highways England have been approached for comment.
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