Mr Pitter QC and Mr Gelsthorpe represented the family of Jason Mercer who died on a section of the M1 which is known as an ‘All Lane Running’ or ‘Smart’ motorway. The case has received widespread publicity since Mr Mercer was one of two men who tragically lost their lives when their stationary vehicles were hit by a heavy goods vehicle in the first lane of the carriageway, near Meadow Hall, South Yorkshire in June 2019.
The driver of the lorry admitted causing death by careless driving but both he and Mr Mercer’s family, who have been campaigning tirelessly on the wider issues, argued that the lack of a hard shoulder on that section of the motorway was a contributing factor to his death.
This was accepted by the police expert witnesses and ultimately representatives of Highways England following questioning. The Coroner concluded that the existence of a hard shoulder would have prevented the tragedy and concluded more widely that the current use of smart motorways presented an “ongoing risk of death to road users”. In his verdict the Coroner also called for improvements in the education of motorists on the use of ‘Smart’ motorways and in the use of facilities to detect stationary vehicles. He also stated that he would be recommending to Highways England and the Secretary of State that there be a wider review and inquiry into the use of ‘Smart’ motorways across the road network.
Mr Pitter QC and Mr Gelsthorpe were instructed by Neil Hudgell of Hudgell’s Solicitors