A coroner has written to National Highways expressing concerns over the risk of deaths on smart motorways, a year after two fatalities prompted a similar response from a coroner.
The latest report to prevent future deaths has been produced by assistant coroner Ian Wade QC after motorcyclist Zoltan Torok died on a smart motorway stretch of the M4 in Berkshire last year. Wade said Torok had become distracted by the presence of two motorists who had left their Land Rover following a breakdown and were standing beyond the roadside barrier due to there being no hard shoulder. Wade said: “He rode into the rear of the stationary Land Rover without decreasing his speed, causing catastrophic multiple injuries from which he died in the highway.”
The report said an inquest into Torok’s death heard from a police collision investigator who said the accident would not have occurred if the broken down car had been able to pull out of the running lane into a refuge, or onto a traditional hard shoulder.
His report follows a similar one sent to the transport secretary and National Highways following the deaths of Jason Mercer and Alexandru Murgeanu on a smart motorway stretch of the M1 by HGV driver Prezemyslaw Szuba. At the time, coroner David Urpeth said the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to the tragedy.
David Bray, National Highways programme director, said: “We will carefully consider the coroner’s report and will respond to the coroner in detail in the coming weeks.”