- Sputnik International
Get the latest news from around the world, live coverage, off-beat stories, features and analysis.

Smart Motorway 'Could Have Saved the Lives' of Eight M1 Minibus Crash Victims

© Photo : Thames Valley Police / Wagstaff's Fed Ex truck (pictured) ploughed into the back of a minibus carrying 11 passengers to Disneyland Paris
Wagstaff's Fed Ex truck (pictured) ploughed into the back of a minibus carrying 11 passengers to Disneyland Paris - Sputnik International
A Polish truck driver was jailed for 14 years on Friday, March 23, for his part in a horrific accident on the M1 motorway in England last year which killed eight people in a minibus. Sputnik spoke to the RAC's road safety spokesman, Pete Williams, who said new technology could have prevented the crash.

Polish trucker Ryszard Masierak was twice the legal alcohol limit when he fell asleep at the wheel of his truck in the inside lane of the M1 near Newport Pagnell, 50 miles north of London in August last year.

It was 3am but despite the hour the motorway — which is the main north-south artery in England — was busy with traffic.

A minibus containing 11 passengers on their way from Nottingham to London to catch a coach to Disneyland Paris tried to overtake the truck but was forced to wait, with its hazard lights on.

Suddenly British trucker David Wagstaff's vehicle loomed out of the darkness and plowed into the back of the minibus, pushing it under Masierak's truck.

The minibus driver and seven passengers died. They were Indian nationals who were either employees of IT company Wipro or their relatives.

Girl, Four, Orphaned by Crash

One of the survivors was a four-year-old girl, Shravathi Karthikeyan, who was orphaned by the accident.

The trial at Reading Crown Court heard Masierak's truck had been stationary for 12 minutes, but this had not been noticed by any Highways Agency patrol or by their control room.

Pete Williams, the RAC's road safety spokesman, said if that stretch of the M1 had been a "smart motorway" the truck would have flashed up and a sign would have warned traffic of the obstacle ahead.

Highways England is rolling out a program of converting major arterial routes into "smart motorways", starting with sections of the M25, London's orbital motorway, and the M3 which runs between London and the port of Southampton.

The program involves digging up the entire motorway and putting special sensors underneath the tarmacadam surface.

Motorway Sensors Can Spot Vehicles Not Moving

These sensors form what is known as the Motorway Incident Detection Automatic Signalling or Midas system, which can immediately detect if the road is blocked, triggering flashing red X signs above the carriageway.

"Midas would detect the presence of a stationary vehicle and would have then closed that lane. This incident would have set alarm bells ringing," Mr. Williams told Sputnik.

The smart motorway projects are controversial, partly because of the disruption involved in installing the sensors, and partly because under the new system the "hard shoulder" is removed and motorways become a four-lane road.

Instead of the hard shoulder, there are Emergency Refuge Areas every 1.5 miles and cars or trucks that break down have to be able to limp as far as the nearby ERA.

"Our view is that there is a need for additional capacity in our congested nation and this is the most cost-effective way of doing it. But we have genuine concerns about having no hard shoulders and we have pressed for the ERAs to be closer together," Mr. Williams told Sputnik.

The RAC is one of the biggest breakdown services in the UK and their mechanics usually carry out repairs on the hard shoulder.

Under the new system they will have to stop just ahead of the broken down vehicle and hope that other drivers notice the red X sign and avoid that carriageway.

Polish Trucker Convicted of More Serious Offense Than Englishman

Masierak was convicted of causing death by dangerous driving and was jailed for 14 years at Aylesbury Crown Court on Friday.

Judge Francis Sheridan told him he was "an unmitigated, persistent if unaccomplished liar."

"What you have tried to do is blame everyone and everybody except yourself," the judge told Masierak.

Wagstaff, from Stoke-on-Trent, was acquitted of the more serious charge but was jailed for 40 months after admitting causing death by careless driving.

"You took no action whatsoever because you weren't concentrating on what was in front of you — they were there to be seen and you didn't see them," Judge Sheridan told Wagstaff.

Masierak was banned from driving in the UK for 17 years and Wagstaff lost his license for three years.

"This is a tragic case and our sincerest condolences go to the families and friends of those involved," said a Highways England spokesman.

"Safety is at the heart of everything we do and our motorways are among the safest in the world. This was an entirely preventable incident but sadly it also highlights how important it is to be fully vigilant when driving on the road network, even more so at night," he added.


To participate in the discussion
log in or register
Заголовок открываемого материала