Motorcyclist demands smart motorways are ditched after horror accident

‘They’re a death trap’: Motorcyclist demands smart motorways are ditched after suffering horrific accident on M6 that means he has to learn to walk again

  • Jack Gallowtree, 33, had nightmare crash as he travelled on the M6 southbound 
  • His motorbike suddenly lost power as he rode from Manchester on April 26
  • But because he was on a smart motorway he was unable to pull over safely 

A biker has blamed smart motorways for a life-changing accident which left him with horrific injuries including one of his legs needing to be rebuilt.

Jack Gallowtree, 33, said his nightmare crash unfolded as he travelled on the M6 southbound from Manchester on April 26.

The Wolverhampton model and tattooist’s motorbike started to suddenly lose power near junction 18 and realised he had to get to safety.

What could have been the hard shoulder was being used by two lorries as a legal lane so he decided he need to go in front of them to reach the side of the carriageway before his bike stopped.

But as he reached the side of the road one of his wheels left the tarmac with disastrous consequences.

He bucked to the left at 60mph before crashing, shattering his left leg so badly emergency surgery needed a skin graft and left it a centimetre shorter.

Jack said: ‘Smart motorways are death traps whose existence is completely nonsensical.

‘I could have pulled in, could have took the tools off my bike and checked if I could have made any adjustments, if it couldn’t be resolved, I could have waited for breakdown recovery.

Jack Gallowtree, 33, who suffered life-altering injuries following an accident on the M6

The crash shattered his leg so badly surgery needed a skin graft and left it a centimetre shorter

‘No harm whatsoever, but instead I have life-changing injuries and I could have died.

‘It’s not an effective alternative anyway, seeing as the lanes don’t seem to close for breakdowns and then what if you come to a sudden stop as a breakdown, but you have a HGV right behind you.

‘There’s no safety element whatsoever to them.

‘I have seen the statistics in the increase in deaths because of these things and now it has personally affected me now, I think these things need to go,’ he added to CheshireLive.

It comes as official figures show death rates on smart motorways with the hard shoulder permanently removed are higher than those on conventional motorways. 

Evidence submitted to the Commons transport committee, which is investigating smart motorways, shows that in 2018 ‘live lane fatality rates’ were more than a third higher on ‘All Lane Running’ (ALR) roads

Jason Mercer, 44, was killed just 15 minutes after saying goodbye to his wife Claire, 43, when a HGV ploughed into him

Two victims who died as lorries smashed into cars 

DEV NARAN

The eight-year-old schoolboy is one of the youngest victims to be killed on a smart motorway.

Dev, from Leicestershire, died instantly in 2018 when his family’s stationary Toyota car was hit at 56mph by a lorry on a hard shoulder opened to traffic on the M6 near Birmingham. It came 45 seconds after the car stopped. 

Dev’s grandfather had been driving, but it is not known why he pulled over. The boy’s family called for a rethink of smart roads.

Dev Naran, 8, is one of the youngest victims to be killed on a smart motorway

JASON MERCER

The contracts manager, 44, was killed along with delivery driver Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, on the M1 smart motorway near Sheffield in 2019. 

A coroner ruled the lack of a hard shoulder contributed to their deaths.

Mr Mercer, of Rotherham, pictured with wife Claire, was in a minor collision with the van of Mr Murgeanu, of Mansfield. 

Both drivers had stopped on the hard shoulder – which was open to moving traffic – when a lorry smashed into the van.

Jason Mercer (above with his partner Claire) was killed along with delivery driver Alexandru Murgeanu, 22, on the M1 smart motorway near Sheffield in 2019

 

The revelation blows a hole in Transport Secretary Grant Shapps’ claims that smart motorways are ‘as safe as, or safer than’ their conventional counterparts.

It also undermines a claim last month by Highways England’s acting chief executive Nick Harris that they ‘are the safest roads in the country’.

Evidence submitted to the Commons transport committee, which is investigating smart motorways, shows that in 2018 ‘live lane fatality rates’ were more than a third higher on ‘All Lane Running’ (ALR) roads.

These smart motorways have their hard shoulders permanently scrapped and converted into an extra lane, meaning motorists can become marooned in traffic rushing past them.

In 2019, the live lane fatality rate on ALR roads was eight per cent higher than on conventional motorways.

The Department for Transport figures, which include collisions between moving and stationary vehicles, show death rates were lower on ALR roads – the most common form of smart motorway – in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

But they overtook the rates on conventional motorways in 2018 and 2019.

The figures show live lane fatality rates have surged on ALR motorways over the last five years as more miles of them have been rolled out.

Meanwhile, the rate on conventional motorways has fallen.

The rates are measured as fatalities per hundred million vehicle miles travelled by drivers on the roads. On ALR smart motorways the rate was 0.19 in 2018 compared with 0.14 for conventional motorways – 35 per cent higher.

In 2019 the figures were 0.14 and 0.13 respectively

Claire Mercer, whose husband was killed in 2019 after he pulled over on a section of the M1 with no hard shoulder, said: ‘It shows the level of deceit we’re dealing with.

They are purposefully using the five-year figure rather than the two most recent years.’

She added of smart motorways: ‘It is insulting they carry on defending them, but the most serious thing is they carry on killing people.’

Sally Jacobs, 83, whose husband Derek was killed on the M1 in 2019 after he pulled over due to a fault with his vehicle, said: ‘Every time Grant Shapps says they’re safer I want to throw something at the telly.

‘I honestly think they’ve been massaging the figures all the way along.’

A Highways England spokesperson told CheshireLive: ‘Our thoughts are with the motorcyclist and we wish him well with his recovery.

‘While the police are investigating, we’re unable to provide further comment on this specific collision.

‘Every serious accident on our network is one too many.

‘However, overall, our motorways are among the safest in the world, and the Government’s recent evidence stocktake established that in most ways smart motorways are at least as safe as, or safer than, the conventional motorways they replaced.

‘We will continue implementing the stocktake’s findings, and will work with drivers to make increasingly busy motorways safer for everyone who uses them.’

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