Airbase driving clampdown

AMERICAN personnel at the county's two USAF bases could face military action if they overtake on Suffolk roads under tough new guidelines in the wake of five fatalities in the last two weeks.

AMERICAN personnel at the county's two USAF bases could face military action if they overtake on Suffolk roads under tough new guidelines in the wake of five fatalities in the last two weeks.

Residents living near RAF Mildenhall and Lakenheath are being asked to name and shame motorists who they see overtaking in nearby roads as military chiefs get tough in a bid to prevent any further tragedies.

Staff Sgt David Bortel, 26, a member of the 100th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron at RAF Mildenhall, became the seventh American to die on the region's roads this year after his car was in a collision with a lorry on the A1101 at Shippea Hill in Cambridgeshire on Tuesday .

Staff Sgt Bortel, who was single, had only been stationed at Mildenhall for three weeks. A memorial service is expected to be held next week.


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The accident was just three miles from the scene of last week's horrific car crash when Cortina Hamilton and her children – three-year-old Alyssa, Malik, 22 months, and stepson Jalin, five – died after their car careered into a 20ft ditch in Burnt Fen, near Mildenhall.

Both bases have pledged to focus on driver safety and have banned overtaking, with immediate effect, on the A1101 between Littleport and Bury St Edmunds, the A1065 between Brandon and the Five Ways roundabout, on the B1112 between Icklingham and Feltwell and the C602 Holywell Row road.

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It is believed American motorists will be able to pass slow moving vehicles along these roads.

Capt Shane Balken, of RAF Mildenhall, said: "We are aggressively pursuing ways to tackle driver safety in both the short and long term.

"We have made the immediate decision to ban overtaking on certain roads along the base. This is a policy coming from each unit's commanders and it is a direct order.

"Overtaking is not against the law but if servicemen and women disobey the order, military action will be taken.

"We will rely a lot on the community and we would ask residents to tell us if they see something."

Lt Ed Ekpoudom, at RAF Lakenheath, said they too have banned military personnel from overtaking.

He added: "Whenever a tragedy, like what we have seen recently, takes place, we always remind them of the importance of being vigilant when driving. This message is being emphasised even more now."

Suffolk county councillor Mary Crane, a leading campaigner for improvements to the A1101, said: "The value of it is that it is designed to prevent people from overtaking as the motorists will not want to be reported.

"But I think if they do overtake then it will be very difficult and problematic for other drivers to distinguish who is actually overtaking them. It obviously shows the bases are trying to do something but this seems to be a shot in the dark."

Insp Joy Mayhew, of Bury St Edmunds' police traffic unit, said: "Any initiative by an organisation that aims to improve road safety is welcomed and encouraged by Suffolk Police."

Military personnel at RAF Mildenhall will be put through their paces tomorrowat a mandatory safety day designed at improving awareness on the nearby roads.

Staff Sgt Chuck Marsh, of the 100th Air Refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, said: "Safety days are not uncommon but the recent accidents have brought vehicle safety to the forefront of people's minds."

Although there were some doubts within RAF Lakenheath as to how they would enforce the direct order, a hotline has been set up by their counterparts in Mildenhall. Anyone who sees American personnel overtaking on the roads should contact RAF Mildenhall's safety officers on 01638 542255.

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