Smart motorway 'contributed' to teen's death in M1 horror crash near Junction 11a, inquest hears

Concerns about smart motorways have been raised by a Bedfordshire coroner after a 19-year-old passenger died in a horror crash on the M1 near Dunstable.
Mr Ahmed's inquest at Ampthill Coroner's Court raised concerns about smart motorwaysMr Ahmed's inquest at Ampthill Coroner's Court raised concerns about smart motorways
Mr Ahmed's inquest at Ampthill Coroner's Court raised concerns about smart motorways

Zahid Ahmed died on December 1, 2019, when the Kia Sedona he was travelling in broke down in the south lane near Junction 11A, in which all lanes were running live.

Three other vehicles managed to swerve past the people carrier - which had its hazard lights illuminated - before a HGV ploughed into the back of it.

Mr Ahmed, from North London, tragically died at the scene while the other five occupants in the vehicle were injured.

65-year-old Wojciech Bukowski, from Poland, was later jailed for over four years for causing death by dangerous driving.

Following Mr Ahmed's inquest in Ampthill in January, Coroner Tom Stoate has issued a Regulation 26 (Prevention of Future Deaths) report to Highways England, raising concerns about the absence of a hard shoulder on the stretch of motorway.

Crucially, evidence from Bedfordshire Police at the inquest stated: "The absence of a hard shoulder contributed to the collision. Had the [deceased’s] vehicle been able to stop in a location other than that of a live lane, the offending HGV would not have driven into the back of it."

Highways England has been given 25 days to respond to the coroner's report.

Describing the circumstances which led to the collision, Mr Stoate wrote: "Whilst it was on the smart motorway at the M1 South Junction 11a, the Kia suffered a mechanical defect which caused it to lose power and the engine check light to illuminate on the instrument panel.

"The Kia exited the main carriageway and entered an Emergency Refuge Area (ERA), where it remained stationary for approximately 12 seconds. The Kia re-entered the main carriageway and, shortly after, its hazard lights were illuminated.

"The Kia then stopped in lane one, approximately 145m south of the ERA, a section operating as a running lane with no hard shoulder. Three other vehicles were able to avoid colliding with the Kia.

"At approximately 15:15 hours, a Polish registered black Scania R450 articulated heavy goods vehicle travelling at 56 MPH hit the rear of the Kia causing significant damage, and causing Mr Ahmed multiple traumatic injuries. At 16:37 hours a paramedic examined the body of the deceased at the scene and confirmed his death.

"The road surface was good, and the weather conditions were cold but clear and dry. As the Kia was stationery and the parking brake applied, Mr Ahmed had probably removed his seatbelt - although I concluded in any event that a seatbelt would not have made any difference to the injuries he sustained.

"The driver of the Scania had a clear and unobstructed view, allowing him between approximately 8 and 10 seconds to identify and react to the presence of the Kia, and to use the road space and time available either to stop safely in lane one or to move into lane two in order to avoid the collision.

"The collision occurred primarily due to the failure of the Scania driver to perceive and respond to the presence of the Kia in enough time to avoid a collision, and also due to the presence of the Kia in a running lane of the motorway as no alternative was available to the driver after leaving the ERA."

Highways England has been contacted for comment.

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