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Widow whose husband was killed on a smart motorway blasts ‘propaganda’ that cost taxpayers £768,000

A widow whose husband was killed on a smart motorway has branded a new safety campaign which cost more than £750,000 ‘patronising propaganda’.

National Highways this week launched an advertising blitz alongside a slick video featuring Gadget Show presenters Ortis Deley and Suzi Perry.

The Daily Mail can reveal the cost of producing the controversial clip, including the presenters’ fees, production and advertising, was £768,000.

But Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason died on a section of smart motorway on the M1 in 2019, said the clip did ‘not represent reality’ and was ‘victim-blaming’.

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National Highways this week launched an advertising blitz alongside a slick video featuring Gadget Show presenters Ortis Deley and Suzi Perry

The 12-minute video starts with Mr Deley and Miss Perry getting into a car and talking about their excitement at going ‘road tripping’ while listening to Abba. 

While cruising down the inside lane of a smart motorway with its hard shoulder permanently converted into a live lane, Mr Deley says: ‘Hey Suzi, look, we’re on an all lane running motorway…’

Miss Perry replies: ‘Yes, so the traditional hard shoulder is no longer a hard shoulder, we’re in it now. Might as well use it.’ 

Campaigners have repeatedly pointed out that using the hard shoulder as a live lane means motorists can become marooned in traffic.

About 40 per cent of breakdowns on smart motorways with the hard shoulder permanently removed happen in a live lane due to a lack of emergency laybys – the clip fails to mention this. 

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason died on a section of smart motorway on the M1 in 2019, said the clip did ¿not represent reality¿ and was ¿victim-blaming¿

Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason died on a section of smart motorway on the M1 in 2019, said the clip did ‘not represent reality’ and was ‘victim-blaming’

While driving past an emergency layby, Miss Perry controversially appears to suggest they are better than having a hard shoulder.

The presenters also visit a CCTV control room, where cameras are used to scan the road and spot any incidents. A control room manager tells them: ‘We monitor the cameras. We monitor the smart motorways. We monitor the signs and signals.

‘We deal with everything from traffic congestion to broken vehicles, accidents, incidents, and we deploy our traffic officers.’ As they leave, Mr Deley says: ‘It’s quite a set-up in there isn’t it, it’s really impressive.’

Their comments are in stark contrast to a Daily Mail investigation last year in which an undercover reporter worked in a control room in South Mimms, Hertfordshire, and found that more than one in ten cameras was either broken, misted up or facing the wrong way.

The systems used to display warnings on gantries above smart motorways often also crashed, meaning drivers were not warned of potential hazards. The presenters go on to explain what to do in the event of a breakdown and what some of the features being rolled out on smart motorways are. The clip finishes with them going for afternoon tea at a country mansion.

Mrs Mercer said: ‘It’s obvious the two presenters were not given the full facts. It’s blindly ignoring what the real massive problems are – which is exactly what propaganda is – and championing the few good bits. Saying you may as well use the hard shoulder is like saying you may as well use a life boat on a ship. The problem isn’t with the drivers.

‘It’s patronising and victim-blaming. At the end of the day, if you absolutely have to come to a stop on a motorway, would you prefer to in a live lane or a hard shoulder?’

She added: ‘The fact they spent £768,000 of public money on it just adds insult to injury.’

But Mel Clarke, of National Highways, said: ‘We’re investing hundreds of millions of pounds to make England’s motorways and major A-roads even safer and we are determined to continue to work hard to help drivers feel safe and be safe on all our roads. Road safety campaigns play an important part in that.’

He added that the video explained ‘in simple terms how smart motorways work, how drivers should use them and how the technology helps to keep people safe’.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps this month paused the rollout of 120 miles of ‘all lane running’ smart motorway after a Commons transport committee report called for action over deadly safety flaws.

The development was a victory for the Mail, which has repeatedly campaigned for better safety on the controversial roads. Representatives for Mr Deley and Miss Perry were contacted for comment.


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