Coroner issues latest smart motorways warning after teenager died

Coroner issues latest smart motorways warning after teenager who died in M1 crash became fifth fatality in two years

  • Assistant coroner has called for urgent action after 19-year-old died in M1 crash 
  • Zahid Ahmed hit by a lorry at 56mph in a broken-down car on smart motorway
  • Detective said teenager would not have died if there had been a hard shoulder 

A coroner has issued yet another warning against smart motorways after a teenager who died in a crash on the M1 became the fifth fatality in two years. 

The assistant coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, Tom Stoate, has written to Highways England after a teenager died and two others ended up in comas when they broke down on a smart motorway without a hard shoulder. 

Mr Stoate has called for urgent action after a detective said the teenagers would not have come to such harm if there had been a hard shoulder.  

Zahid Ahmed, 19, was killed when the people carrier he was in stopped before an emergency refuse area on the smart motorway and was hit by a lorry at 56mph. 

Zahid Ahmed, 19, was killed when the people carrier he was in stopped before an emergency refuse area on the smart motorway and was hit by a lorry at 56mph

Four other teenagers in the vehicle, students at Middlesex University, ended up in hospital. 

They had been returned from a pool competition in Birmingham on December 1, 2019, and broke down while travelling southbound on the M1 near Luton where the hard shoulder was open to traffic. 

Highways England did not see the stranded vehicle and so did not close the lane.  

Mr Stoate’s report, seen by The Telegraph, says: ‘The vehicle in which the deceased was a passenger suffered a mechanical defect which caused it to lose power.

‘It is not clear where the vehicle could have pulled to a halt in a safe place in these circumstances, given that there was no hard shoulder and all lanes were live.’

And Mr Ahmed’s brother told the publication: ‘If there had been a hard shoulder, the car would have had somewhere to stop, this terrible accident would not have happened and my brother would be alive.

The assistant coroner for Bedfordshire and Luton, Tom Stoate, has called for urgent action after a detective said the teenagers would not have come to such harm if there had been a hard shoulder

‘Hard shoulders are there explicitly to prevent accidents like this when a car breaks down. Zahid cared for his two disabled sisters. Losing his love and support has had a terrible impact on them.’

The lorry driver, Wojciech Bukowski, 65, who was jailed for more than four years for causing death by dangerous driving, would only have had up to 10 seconds to spot the vehicle.  

DC Ben Amondsen, of Bedfordshire’s serious collision investigation unit, told the inquest in January that the absence of a hard shoulder contributed to the collision. 

He said that if the broken-down car had not been forced to be on a live lane of traffic, it would not have been hit and added there was an ‘ongoing concern’ over smart motorways. 

Four coroners have now issued ‘fear of future death reports’ in relation to five deaths where people were killed after their cars became stranded on a smart motorway with no hard shoulder between August 2017 and June 2019.    

A Highways England spokesman said: ‘Our deepest sympathies are with the family of Mr Ahmed and we will respond to the coroner’s report.

‘We are continuing to deliver on the actions set out in the Government’s smart motorway evidence stocktake to further raise the bar on smart motorway safety’.

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