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Nargis Begum Mother-of-five killed on M1 smart motorway

BY Anas Shah Sep 11, 2022. 01:42 pm UPDATED: Sep 11, 2022. 01:43 pm

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After her car broke down in a live lane, a mother-of-five was killed in a terrifying smart highway collision.

It was determined that the fact that Nargis Begum, 62, was stopped in her Nissan Qashqai on a section of the M1 smart motorway without a hard shoulder, played a crucial role in the deadly collision. She was killed when a Mercedes that didn’t appear to be trying to avoid the collision struck her vehicle.

Now, an inquest into her death has heard how the Nissan was in lane one, which was still live, unnoticed for 16 minutes and 21 seconds before Mrs. Begum got out and the collision occurred, around 250 yards past an emergency shelter.

The car’s mechanical problem caused Mrs. Begum and her husband, who was driving, to halt close to Woodall services in Chesterfield in North Derbyshire as they were returning from Derby to their home in Sheffield.

According to the inquiry, Kantrimas Zukauskas, the driver of the Mercedes, was first detained on suspicion of causing death by hazardous driving but was never charged. At the hearing, he declined to provide testimony.

No one operating any of the 153 vehicles that passed the abandoned car before the crash informed National Highways of its location, according to senior coroner Nicola Mundy, and this contributed to Mrs. Begum’s demise.

Recording a conclusion of “road traffic collision”, Ms Mundy said: “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.”

Ms. Mundy expressed worry that many members of the public tend to mistakenly think that the control room staff is always watching the dozens of cameras that are installed on smart motorways.

She claimed that one witness spoke at the inquiry about not reporting the Nissan because he thought the cameras would catch it.

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The chief executive of National Highways, Nick Harris, and other directors and staff members informed the coroner that this was not practical, and the coroner enquired as to whether more could be done to inform the public of this fact.

Regarding this issue of public education, she declared that she will be writing to National Highways.

Mr. Harris explained before the inquest that by the end of this month, all so-called All Lane Running motorways would have equipment that can identify more than 80% of immobilised immobile vehicles in less than 20 seconds.

When Mrs. Begum passed away on September 9, 2018, Ms. Mundy requested that South Yorkshire Police investigate whether Highways England could be charged with corporate manslaughter.

After receiving advice from the Crown Prosecution Service that it did not have a “relevant duty of care” under the terms of the Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007 to road users, the force announced in February 2021 that the organisation, now known as National Highways, would not be charged.

Campaigner Claire Mercer said, according to the PA news agency on Friday, “She (the coroner) decided that a lack of a hard shoulder led to the tragedy. Her husband Jason Mercer also died after stopping on a smart road in South Yorkshire. There isn’t much else to say, really.

“If there had been a hard shoulder, Nargis Begum would not be dead.”

AA president Edmund King 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.”

Mr. King reported that the AA had written to Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the incoming transport secretary, asking her to follow up on remarks made by Prime Minister Liz Truss at the Tory leadership hustings.

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In August, Ms Truss said she would stop smart motorways, telling a questioner: “I absolutely think that we need to review them and stop them, if they’re not working, as soon as possible, and all the evidence I have agrees with the point you’re making on smart motorways.”

She said: “I can’t give you a precise answer on the points, but I do believe that the smart motorways experiment hasn’t worked.”

Asked to clarify if she would stop them, Ms Truss replied: “Yes.”

Despite the fact that All Lane was admitted, Mr. Harris testified at the inquiry Although operating smart motorways increased the chance of vehicles being stuck in live lanes, overall, they were safer than conventional motorways.

“Our warmest thoughts are with the family of Mrs. Begum, and all those affected by this awful occurrence,” a National Highways official said following the inquest.

“Every death on the road is a tragic loss of life, and we are steadfastly committed to making our roads as safe as we can.

Read More: Who is Ella Emhoff? Kamala Harris’ stepdaughter, Husband, Boyfriend, Mother and Instagram

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