A student has revealed the dangers of so-called ‘smart motorways’ after a horror crash killed his friend sitting next to him and left three others seriously injured.
Mohammed Bhaimia is still recovering from his injuries seven months after a lorry ploughed into their vehicle on the M1 near Dunstable, Bedfordshire, last December.
The 20-year-old from Haggerston, east London, suffered serious fractures plus lung and liver damage after the HGV rammed into the back of the people carrier in which the five friends were passengers.
The devastating accident happened when a lorry driver went into the back of their broken down Kia Sedona people carrier in which Mohammed was a passenger.
At the time of the collision the hard shoulder was being used as an active lane.
Mohammed’s friend, Zahir Ahmed, 19, who was also a passenger, was killed in the smash.
Three others in the Kia also suffered serious wounds, including brain injuries.
Following the collision Mohammed spent three weeks in hospital and needs specialist rehabilitation to overcome his injuries.
He has since launched a civil case against the lorry driver’s insurers.
Wojciech Bukowski, who was driving the HGV, was jailed for four years and eight months on July 15.
The 65-year-old Polish national had previously admitted causing death by dangerous driving and four counts of causing serious injury.
Mohammed said that coming to terms with the accident has been “incredibly difficult”.
He added: “The accident and waking up in hospital is all a blur. I don’t remember much of what happened in the first few days after the crash because I was sedated.
“The last few months and coming to terms with the physical and psychological impact of what happened has been incredibly difficult.”
Mohammed and his friends had been returning from representing Middlesex University in a pool tournament in Birmingham when the crash happened at around 3.10pm on December 1 last year.
After the Kia lost power the driver managed to park safely close to the hard shoulder, which was being used as an active lane, Luton Crown was told last month.
Moments later the vehicle re-joined the main motorway but the vehicle again lost power. It was stationary on what would have been the hard shoulder on a traditional motorway when the collision happened.
The court was told that crash investigators found the lorry driver was driving at 56 mph and had not applied the brakes until he hit the car, despite having eight to 10 seconds to do so. Other motorists had managed to drive round the stricken Kia, the court heard.
The stretch of road is classed as a Dynamic Hard Shoulder Running motorway.
Accountancy student Mohammed, suffered a broken right femur and two left arm fractures, one from the shoulder to elbow and the other running from his wrist to his elbow.
He also suffered a broken collarbone, fractured rib as well as a bruised lung and liver.
Mohammed underwent several operations and had to catch up on his studies but was forced to give up a part-time job he had at an accountancy firm.
Mohammed said many motorists do not realise how dangerous these new motorway layout are when a vehicle breaks down.
He added: “I was studying hard and had an ideal job at an accountancy firm where I was gaining experience. However, because of what happened I had to give up my job and was way behind in my studies.
“I was determined to pass my year as I didn’t want to have to defer and lose a year. Somehow, I managed to catch up and pass which I’m really proud of.
“I just hope that by speaking out people realise how dangerous smart motorways can be. I don’t think a lot of people understand how they operate so it’s vital drivers take care at all times.
“I wouldn’t others to go through what me and my friends have.”
Claire Mercer, whose husband Jason, 44, along with another man, died in a collision on a stretch of the M1 near Sheffield which is a smart motorway is also part of a legal action to roll back the government’s plans to remove more hard shoulders from major roads.
She wants Highways England to scrap smart motorways amid safety fears and is planning on bringing a judicial review into their use.
Darshana Patel, specialist serious injury lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, representing Mohammed said: “This is truly a terrible incident which not only claimed the life of a bright and promising man but also significantly impacted the lives of four of his friends.
“The safety of smart motorways has been called into question on a number of occasions in recent years and the number of fatalities on such routes nationally is a major cause for concern.
“While Mohammed has made good progress he still faces many challenges in his recovery.
“We are continuing to support Mohammed access the rehabilitation he needs and join him in urging drivers to ensure they take care on smart motorways.”