From BBC Sheffield & South Yorkshire 12th February 2021
Highways England should be investigated over possible manslaughter charges after a woman’s death on a smart motorway, a coroner has said.
A week after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps described smart motorways as “not so smart”, a coroner has stated that Highways England should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service over the death of Nargis Begum, 62, from Sheffield, who was killed after her car broke down on part of the M1 with no hard shoulder.
Her own vehicle was hit and ploughed into her. The length of time it went undetected was highlighted by South Yorkshire coroner Nicola Mundy.
Highways England said it did not believe it had committed any offence.
Ms Mundy suggested the government-owned company should be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to consider if manslaughter charges were appropriate.
Previous hearings into Ms Begum’s death in 2018 have heard that 16 minutes elapsed between her Nissan breaking down near Woodall Services and the crash.
It took a further six minutes before warning signs were activated.
At the latest pre-inquest review hearing at Doncaster Coroner’s Court, Ms Mundy outlined factors behind her decision to refer the case.
She said “nobody has responsibility for monitoring cameras” feeding footage from smart motorways and drivers were unaware “the onus is on them” to report any incidents.
Speaking after the hearing, Mrs Begum’s daughter, Saima Aktar, said she was pleased the CPS would look into her mum’s death and the use of smart motorways.
She said it had been “incredibly difficult” for the family to come to terms with her mother’s death, especially for her father Mohammed Bashir, who had been driving.
‘No constant monitoring’
Highways England is a Government-owned company responsible for managing England’s motorways and major A-roads.
Nicholas Chapman, representing the firm, said footage from a CCTV camera covering the scene of the crash would have been sent to a “busy” regional control centre staffed by “seven or eight” people.
But he said staff would also be receiving images from about 450 other cameras and there was “no constant or routine monitoring”.
He added that there was no evidence any of the operators did “anything else other than conscientiously go about their duties”.
Thirty-eight people have been killed on smart motorways across the country in the past five years.
See also our blog posts “Smart Motorways – “not so smart” says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and “Smart motorways trade “driver safety for lower costs”
Smart Motorways are discussed in our 3.5 hour CPC Motorway module included in our range of driver cpc periodic training modules.
The module examines the changes to the network with the introduction of smart motorways and the variations in type,
Dynamic hard shoulder running
All Lane running
The course examines the technology in use to monitor traffic flow, and provides guidance including ANPR, MIDAS, and automatic signaling advice to drivers. It examines the role of staff who work on the motorway including the roles, responsibilities and powers of the Highways England Traffic Officers, the Police, and others. The correct action to take in case of breakdown or other emergencies is discussed to ensure that drivers understands the risks involved and how to minimise them.
Call us now on 01384 442233 for further details or complete the enquiry form.