In May 2018, eight-year-old Dev Naran was killed instantly on the M6 motorway near Birmingham after a lorry driver collided with the car driven by Dev's grandfather.
At the time, the family's car was stopped on the hard shoulder of the motorway, which had been turned into an active lane by the Highway's Agency earlier in the day.
Keith supported Dev's family at the recent inquest into the young boy's death at Birmingham Coroner's Court on October 12th. After hearing evidence, Emma Brown, the West Midlands area coroner, issued a Section 28 Preventing Future Deaths report – the most serious ruling open to her – warning that further lives were at risk with the continued use of 'smart' motorways to ease traffic congestion. She said turning the hard shoulder into an active lane can 'confuse motorists'.
Ms Brown also highlighted that the Highway's Agency staff failed to spot the car, despite numerous CCTV cameras covering the route and voiced her concern that no discussions were in place to improve monitoring of smart motorways.
She wrote that despite signs saying the hard shoulder was open to traffic “there is a real risk that drivers seeing a hard shoulder bordered by solid white lines (and who may have used the road when the hard shoulder is not in use as a live lane) may become confused and forget/fail to register that the hard shoulder is operating as a live lane.”
She added that Highways England has “no system of automatic alert” to spot a lone vehicle. Instead, they often have to rely on calls from the police or public to alert them that a stranded motorist is in peril and the lane needs to be closed to traffic. She also raised concern that the agency does not appear to regard the issues affecting that stretch of the M6 as an acute problem, when it should be.
The court also heard that there was a 2.5 mile gap between emergency laybys where it is safe for motorists to stop.
Research by Highways England revealed that 19,316 vehicles stopped in flowing traffic in 2017 and last year, equivalent to 26 a day.
Keith continues to represent the family in an ongoing personal injury claim.
Read the Sunday Telegraph's front page report of the case.