Smart motorways: Bereaved wife fighting to stop others suffering

12 April 2021, 12:09 | Updated: 12 April 2021, 12:38

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

The wife of a man who was killed while trying to repair his van in a smart motorway has told LBC she doesn't want another family experiencing her grief.

It comes after an investigation into Highways England files has found that emergency services have actively condemned smart motorways as paramedics have significant trouble getting to patients.

Sally Jacobs, 83, lost her husband, Derek, of the same age, in March 2019 as he attempted to fix his vehicle after failing to reach an emergency refuge area on the M1.

It is reported emergency services took nine hours to get to him.

The widow has been campaigning against smart motorways ever since, taking her fight to Highways England bosses and the Department for Transport.

Transcripts of digital communications from the accident show Highways England failed to shut a carriageway despite repeated "urgent" requests to allow an air ambulance to land. Instead, helicopter paramedics were forced to touch down in a field near the motorway.

There were also numerous reports of "heavy traffic" in the hours after the crash, which potentially prevented police, fire crews and ambulances from accessing the scene.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari, Mrs Jacobs explained that the devastating event had inspired her to campaign against the use of smart motorways.

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Nick Ferrari has previously questioned the safety of smart motorways
Nick Ferrari has previously questioned the safety of smart motorways. Picture: PA / LBC

"I have been ticking on about the fact you can't get the emergency services down them but nobody seems to be listening," she told the LBC presenter.

"They couldn't get to my Derek, as I've said to you before. The motorway was closed for nine hours."

She added: "Because there hasn't been an inquest after two years, I don't really know what went on. But one thing that did console me is that the porter said he died within an hour so he wouldn't have suffered."

Asked why she continues to fight against smart motorways, Mrs Jacobs said: "Because it's very painful and I don't want it to happen to anybody else.

"I want to stop any other family grieving in the way that this family is grieving."

Charles Scripps, 78, was a passenger in another car involved in the incident. He died seven weeks later in hospital.

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