VIDEO: Widow says smart motorways fight will continue after lorry driver is jailed

VIDEO: Widow says smart motorways fight will continue after lorry driver is jailed

By David Parker | 19/10/2020

VIDEO: Widow says smart motorways fight will continue after lorry driver is jailed
Lorry driver Prezemyslaw Szuba, who was jailed at Sheffield Crown Court today


A WIDOW who has campaigned against smart motorways has said her fight will not stop after the lorry driver who killed her husband was jailed for ten months.

Claire Mercer (43) lost her husband Jason Mercer (44) last June when his car was hit by a lorry on the northbound M1 between Junction 34 at Meadowhall and 35 at Thorpe Hesley.

Jason, of Broom, had pulled over while all lanes were running on the smart motorway to exchange details with Alexandru Murgeanu (22), from Mansfield, following a minor collision. Both died in the crash.

Jason Mercer

Prezemyslaw Zbigniew Szuba was jailed at Sheffield Crown Court today (Monday) for ten months and disqualified from driving for four years.

Sentencing Szuba, Judge Jeremy Richardson said: “Had there been a hard shoulder, or had the victims driven on for another mile to the refuge, this catastrophe would never have occurred. 

“There must be no doubt, however, that the main cause of this fatal crash was your inattention to the road ahead of you.”

Jason had taken Claire out for breakfast at Costa Coffee in Rotherham on the morning of the crash, prosecutor Mr Jeremy Evans told the court.

He had left at 8am and had been driving to work when he was involved in a minor collision with Mr Murgeanu.

Both of them made their way over to lane one, where they stopped.

Mr Evans said the nearest safe refuge point where Jason and Mr Murgeanu could have pulled over safely had been 0.8 miles away.

Their vehicles were stopped in lane one for five minutes and 51 seconds.

Mr Evans said 147 vehicles had passed Jason and Mr Murgeanu safely in lanes one and two before Szuba crashed into the back of Mr Murgeanu’s Ford Transit van.

The court heard that Szuba would have had between 3.7 and 5.2 seconds to react to the stationary van.

Jason and Mr Murgeanu both died at the scene of the collision.

Claire said in a statement which she read to the court: “The loss of Jason is immeasurable.

“Jason was an important and distinctive part of our family and I can’t list all the many things we lost when Jason died.

“Even the best written epitaph would never adequately convey just how truly wonderful, multi-dimensional, loving, entertaining and strong Jason was.

“The events of June 7, 2019, would not have taken place if England’s highways were different to how they are.

“My hope in this devastation is that no more lives are ruined needlessly.”

Szuba (40), of Adelaide Street, Hull, pleaded guilty to two offences of causing death by careless driving at a previous hearing at Sheffield Magistrates’ Court.

Mitigating, Mr Andrew Smith said the smart motorway was a wholly inadequate road system.

“They are features that have directly contributed to this incident and these deaths,” he said.

“These roads are simply unsafe.”

Claire is suing Government-run Highways England over Jason’s death and has called for a judicial review into the controversial move to do away with the hard shoulder.

Claire said in a statement outside court that she would not stop campaigning until smart motorways were banned.

“We don’t believe the correct person is taking responsibility for the detrimental impact on our lives and so many other people’s lives,” she said.

“An agenda genuinely concerned with avoiding future deaths, is not served by a pretend review and 18 compromises that wouldn’t have saved of any of 40 plus people killed by smart motorways, or by jailing the wrong person.”

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