A14/Haughley: Widow’s anger over second lay-by accident which she claims could have been avoided

Edward Mann with wife Clare

Edward Mann with wife Clare - Credit: Contributed

THE widow of a driver killed in a road crash has bemoaned the “avoidable tragedy” of an uncannily similar collision on the same stretch of road.

Clare Mann, whose husband Edward died two years ago, when his car smashed into the back of a lorry parked in an A14 lay-by, said nothing had been done to safeguard against the incident being repeated this week.

Mrs Mann campaigned to change highway regulations after her husband’s death and last summer claimed a victory when the Highways Agency promised to make changes to the lay-by, between exits 49 and 50, near Stowupland.

But a horror smash in the early hours of yesterday - which left a man fighting for his life - has stirred memories and provoked an furious reaction from Mrs Mann.

A 32-year-old man remains in a critical condition in hospital after his silver Vauxhall Insignia ploughed into the back of a stationary lorry on the westbound carriageway of the road near Haughley, at around 12.13am.

The casualty was taken to West Suffolk Hospital, Bury St Edmunds, before later being transferred to the neuro critical care unit at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

Mrs Mann, whose husband was 49 at the time of his death, said: “Nothing has been done to make these totally outdated lay-bys safer. This is another tragedy that could have been avoided.

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“Safer road design would cut road deaths and save billions. It took me 18 months of lobbying to get one lay-by downgraded [to “emergency stopping only”].

“I shouldn’t have to be persuading the Highways Agency to make common sense decisions.”

Mrs Mann collected more than 2,000 signatures for a petition to have the fatal lay-by downgraded.

Backed by the East Anglian Daily Times, she continued lobbying haulage companies to promote safer lorry parking for their drivers, after coming across a 2006 joint study by the Highways Agency and the AA that concluded unprotected lay-bys were the biggest threat to road safety.

Her campaign had also been helped by Suffolk coroner Peter Dean who wrote to the Highways Agency after Mr Mann’s inquest to request the status of the fatal lay-by be reconsidered.

But after agreeing to review the status of lay-bys at a number of locations in the East of England, Mrs Mann said the Highways Agency had not brought lay-bys up to current safety standards.

Many hauliers have their own rules for drivers, but there is currently nothing in the law to stop HGVs from parking and resting in hazardous spots.

She added: “These lay-bys need to be set back and kerbed, with proper access in and out via a long sliproad.

“I’m full of sympathy for tired lorry drivers, but the law has to be changed.

“It’s perfectly feasible to look at the overnight use of empty Park and Ride sites. Drivers can only benefit from having a safe place to park at night.”

Mrs Mann yesterday attended a presentation in London, where her daughter, Georgia, and friend Sophie Macrae were both awarded for raising almost £20,000 for road safety charity Brake by running the London Marathon.

Yesterday morning’s accident happened in treacherous road conditions, with snow, ice and patchy fog.

A spokesperson for the ambulance service said the injured man was initially trapped and emergency crews worked hard in difficult conditions to treat and stabilise him as quickly as possible.

Four fire crews were sent to the scene and used specialist equipment to free the man, who police believe lives in Suffolk. The lorry driver was uninjured in the incident.

A Highways Agency spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with those affected by the incident on the A14.

“We understand Mrs Mann’s concerns but due to the ongoing police investigation it would not be appropriate for us to comment further at this time on this particular case.

“Safety is our top priority and we have reviewed our approach to lay-by safety in the light of the Coroner’s report into the very sad death of Mr Mann. We constantly review the causes of accidents, and prioritise the funding we have to achieve the greatest effect.”

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