Absence of hard shoulder on smart motorway ‘contributed to death of grandmother’

Nargis Begum - Family Handout/Irwin Mitchell
Nargis Begum – Family Handout/Irwin Mitchell

The lack of a hard shoulder on a smart motorway contributed to the death of a grandmother, a coroner has ruled.

Nargis Begum, 62, was killed when her car broke down on a section of the M1 in South Yorkshire.

The mother of five and grandmother of nine was outside the vehicle on the inside lane of the motorway when she was hit by her car, which was propelled into her by a lorry, near Woodall services in September 2018.

Despite Mrs Begum being stranded for 16 minutes and 21 seconds before the collision, Highways England, which has since rebranded as National Highways, failed to spot the breakdown so the lane could be closed to traffic.

A total of 153 vehicles passed Mrs Begum’s car before the crash.

Senior Coroner Nicola Mundy recorded her death as due to a road traffic collision.

She told Doncaster Coroner’s Court on Friday:  “The absence of a hard shoulder and the absence of any report to National Highways to notify them of the stationary vehicle so that lane closures could be put in place both contributed to Mrs Begum’s death.”

‘Now is the time for action’

Mrs Begum was being driven by her husband, Mohammed Bashir, who survived. They were travelling from Derby to Sheffield in their daughter’s car after paying a visit to friends.

Mr Bashir, a taxi driver, said his wife was unable to get over the safety barrier after their car lost power and he was forced to pull into the far left lane.

Edmund King, AA president, said: “The conclusion that the absence of a hard shoulder and the absence of any drivers telling National Highways about the stationary vehicle, both contributed to Mrs Begum’s death, surely calls into question the whole concept of ‘smart’ motorways.

“Roads should not be designed with the lives of drivers dependent on other drivers reporting a breakdown in a live lane.

“The inquest heard that corners were cut in the engineering of this stretch of motorway with no stopped vehicle detection in place and not enough emergency refuge areas.

“We have been raising these issues for over a decade and now is time for action.”

Mrs Begum’s daughter, Saima Aktar, said her mother was “truly a blooming flower in our lives”, who was “caring, loving and selfless” and had an infectious smile.

Ms Aktar added: “My heart aches for just one more day with my mum. Can anyone give me that?”

A pathologist report gave Mrs Begum’s cause of death as multiple injuries resulting from the impact of the vehicle. She died at the scene.

Smart motorways are designed to maintain the flow of traffic and were introduced in England in 2002. The design in which there is no hard shoulder came into use in 2014.

In February, South Yorkshire Police confirmed that National Highways will not face a corporate manslaughter charge over Mrs Begum’s death.

A coroner previously concluded that the roads “present an ongoing risk of future deaths”.

The comment was made following an inquest into the deaths of Jason Mercer, 44, and Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, who were also killed in a smart motorway accident on the M1.

Published by anthonyhayble

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