When Meera Naran’s eight-year-old son died in a smart motorway collision in May 2018, she vowed to dedicate her life to campaigning to make them safer.
Last night, the Senior Lecturer in Clinical Pharmacy at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) saw 18 months of almost constant lobbying of the Department for Transport and the Highways Agency finally pay off.
Meera Naran with her son Dev
The BBC News at Six stated the Government had ordered no more smart motorways are to open until they are installed with radar technology that detects when cars have broken down, shuts lanes when necessary and gets help to drivers quickly.
Meera was interviewed for the piece, as she has been on many times over the issue, and today she pledged to continue her work as an Independent Road Safety Campaigner, in memory of her son Dev.
She said: "Until we achieve zero deaths on any roads, I will not be able to say that I have succeeded. I want to ensure other children get home safely to their parents.”
Meera has vowed to continue campaigning in Dev's name
Smart motorways use technology and other measures to cut congestion, such as opening the hard shoulder, but there are fears about their safety because of fatal accidents involving stationary cars being hit from behind.
This is what happened when Dev was travelling back from a visit to his brother in hospital in May 2018. The car he was in had stopped on a hard shoulder on the M6 that had been temporarily opened to traffic to ease congestion.
There was a total of 11 deaths on smart motorways in 2018. This figure rose to 15 in 2019.
In a written statement to Parliament, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said last night that for every hundred million miles driven there were fewer deaths on all-lane motorways than conventional ones.
But he added: “We are determined to do all we can to help drivers feel safer and be safer on our roads - all our roads.”
Dev (right) with his brother Neel
Meera still remembers the moment when she decided she needed to begin campaigning in Dev’s memory to make smart motorways safe.
“Sitting at Dev’s inquest was unbearably painful,” she says.
“It was two weeks after what would have been his tenth birthday and two weeks before my daughter was born. I was a broken mother that day.
“I had already lost one son. My other son is palliative with complex health needs, and I didn’t know if my daughter Evangeline would survive from the pain and stress that I was going through.
“At that moment, all I could think was ‘what are the lessons to be learned here? And how do we make what we have better?’
“My campaign started three days before my daughter was born. Campaigning with a new born baby, and managing Neel and his complex health issues, was a challenge. But it’s a challenge that, to this day, I continue to accept.
“Until we achieve zero deaths, I will not be able to say that I have succeeded.”
What Meera has achieved in just 18 months is quite remarkable.
“I am proud that over the 18 months’ of my campaigning the Highway Code is being updated, a Stocktake in March 2020 has resulted in an 18 point action plan with a government commitment to spend £500 million, and there is a roll out of the initial stage of a £5mn education campaign, which will all help to improve road safety
The update last night also includes many of my campaigning points which I feel are all positive steps in the right direction.”
Meera is now setting her sights on making road networks across Britain safer for everyone.
“Ultimately, we need to continue to improve safety and work collaboratively,” she says. “Further research, safely implementing available technology, improving reporting and monitoring and detailed investigations into post collision data will help make better changes for the future.
“There is much work that needs to be done but I am confident that this can be achieved by all the stakeholders involved.
“According to gov.uk 2019 there were close to 1,752 fatalities and 153,158 casualties of all severities on UK roads. This translates to approximately five deaths and 420 collisions of varying severity every day.
“Road deaths are preventable with the right safety systems in place. And I would be doing an injustice to my son Dev if I didn’t fight to make roads safer across the network as a whole.”
Meera’s position as a mother who has lost a son in a traffic collision is unfortunately one others have also experienced. But she wants people to know they are not alone and there are opportunities to rebuild parts of your life.
“Grief is not just the loss of a loved one. Any loss comes with an unsurmountable pain which can be debilitating,” she explains.
“For me, taking each day, each hour, and each minute as it comes, helps. It’s so important to surround yourself with loved ones and reach out for help when you need.
“It is also about the small, yet powerful mindset changes that I make daily, which help me. I have learnt the power of self-love and commitment to my cause because I believe it is a constructive way of channelling my efforts and love.
“I celebrate Dev’s memory. I support his favourite football team, Leicester City, watch his favourite movies, make his favourite foods and talk about him often.
“I also find communicating clearly with those around me, helps those who may feel awkward or nervous, not knowing what to say. There are still some or many days that will be challenging, and that’s ok but always remember to take stock of your daily achievements no matter how small they seem.”
“Because one day you will look back and see how much you have achieved and how far you have come.
“Looking after the children, campaigning and working is three full time jobs. But for me, each represents my children. I’ll have to be honest, it’s not easy, but I choose to redirect my unspent love that I have for Dev towards ensuring that other children reach home safely to their parents.
“Without Dev, I have to try even harder, but harder will never mean impossible and I continue to live with love in my heart and a passion to make changes to improve road safety.
“We all go through challenges every day and we never really know what another person is going through. That is why it’s so important to be kind and support one another where we can.”
You can read the full findings of Transport Secretary Grant Shapp’s report here
Posted on Wednesday 21st April 2021