'We want to shock you': Grieving smart motorway protesters take coffins to Parliament

2 November 2021, 05:22 | Updated: 2 November 2021, 06:39

Claire Mercer led a coffin protest over smart motorways
Claire Mercer led a coffin protest over smart motorways. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A protester who led a procession of coffins to Westminster wants to "embarrass" the Government and "shock the public" over smart motorway deaths.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Claire Mercer lost her husband Jason after a lorry crashed into his vehicle on the M1.

The judge said at the following court case that had there been a hard shoulder, or had he managed to get to a refuge point, the tragedy would not have happened.

About 50 protesters marched on central London on Monday, carrying 38 fake coffins as part of their campaign against smart motorways.

"We've got a procession of coffins heading to Westminster Bridge," Mrs Mercer told LBC, hoisting a coffin over her shoulder.

"We're going to walk across Westminster Bridge single-file to hammer home the message that people are still dying on these smart motorways."

Read more: Drivers want hard shoulders to be reinstated on smart motorways, survey suggests

Read more: No new smart motorways will be built without extra safety measures

Coffin protest against smart motorways

A man who was helping her carry the coffin was injured on a smart motorway just six months ago, Mrs Mercer added, showing they are still "ruining lives".

She said the coffins were a "powerful image to shock the public and to embarrass the Government because they've done 10 reviews into smart motorways alone this year and it's just the Government checking the Government".

"It's never going to achieve anything is it?" she added.

The Smart Motorways Kill campaign says it "is bringing a judicial review to force a legal stop to smart motorways in the names of everyone killed and hurt on these death traps".

The network doesn't use hard shoulders, and are supposed to make use of cameras to monitor traffic flow.

Electronic boards change speed limits and close off lanes with stopped vehicles by displaying a red 'X', while drivers needing to pull over can use refuges at certain points.

Read more: Stop building smart motorways until they're safe, MPs demand

Protest over smart motorway deaths

But there are fears about whether motorists are at more risk on smart motorways than regular ones which have hard shoulders when a car breaks down or an accident means drivers need to pull over.

In April, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that new smart motorways would not open in England unless extra safety measures were in place.

That includes a Stopped Vehicle Detection system which detects broken down vehicles.

Mr Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, died in the incident on June 2019.

The lorry driver was jailed for causing deaths by careless driving, and the judge said at the time: "Had there been a hard shoulder, or had the victims driven on for another mile to the refuge, this catastrophe would never have occurred."

Mrs Mercer said during the procession protest: "It's so sad to see so many people in one place that have had exactly the same experience as me.

"And so many other people here, they've had terrifying experiences."

She accused the Government of "ignoring us and hoping we go away".

National Highways chief executive Nick Harris said: "Every road death is a tragic loss of life and our thoughts remain with those who have lost a loved one.

"Safety remains our top priority and our motorways are the safest type of road in the country.

"Data shows fatalities are less likely on smart motorways than on conventional ones, but we recognise concerns continue to be raised.

"We are determined to do all we can to help drivers feel safe and be safer on all our roads. We will work with drivers to make increasingly busy motorways safer for everyone who uses them."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Sarah Oliver was killed in the collision

Woman killed by driver who sped through red light while on her phone, as she is jailed for nine years

Spain Building Fire

10th body found in charred remnants of Valencia apartment building

Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva

Brazilian president accuses Israel of committing genocide in Gaza

Ursula von der Leyen

Western leaders arrive in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Hamilton Palace is said to be abandoned

Crumbling Sussex mansion abandoned by millionaire developer 'is UK's biggest slum' and is 'magnet for drug abuse'

Yulia Navalnaya

Navalny widow accuses Putin of mocking Christianity for refusing to return body

Grant Shapps has vowed that Britain will back Ukraine 'to the end'

'We will be there to the end': Shapps vows UK will back Ukraine until war is over, as Britain gives £245m military aid

Exclusive
LBC spoke to a mother and daughter from the war-torn city of Mariupol

Ukrainian refugees accuse Home Office of becoming ‘tired of Ukraine’ after altering resettlement schemes

Rishi Sunak has been urged to strip Liz Truss of the Conservative whip

Labour urges Rishi Sunak to strip former PM Liz Truss of Conservative whip after claim of 'deep state sabotage'

Ursula von der Leyen

EC chief von der Leyen arrives in Kyiv as Ukraine marks invasion anniversary

Mel B

'I went from Spice Girls tour to sharing a bed with my kids': Mel B had just £700 in the bank after leaving abusive ex

King Charles

King Charles chuckles at funny get-well card, one of 7,000 he was sent after cancer diagnosis

Palestine protesters outside Parliament

Palestine protest leader 'wanted Parliament to have to lock its doors', as fears grow for MP's safety

Election 2024 Trump

Trump says criminal indictments boosted his appeal to Black voters

People pull kayaks into the water at Badwater Basin in Death Valley National Park

Kayakers paddle in one of Earth’s driest spots after rains replenish lake

Judith Godreche

Star calls on French film industry to ‘face the truth’ on sexual violence