Death toll blamed on driver error

By Rebecca SheppardACCIDENT experts have said the rising death toll on the county's roads was mainly due to driver error.So far 52 people have lost their lives in or as a result of accidents on the roads of Suffolk this year - more than the number of deaths in the whole of 2002.

By Rebecca Sheppard

ACCIDENT experts have said the rising death toll on the county's roads was mainly due to driver error.

So far 52 people have lost their lives in or as a result of accidents on the roads of Suffolk this year - more than the number of deaths in the whole of 2002.

Suffolk county councillor Peter Monk, who is the portfolio holder for public protection, said the public was too quick to blame other factors instead of taking responsibility for their safety and the security of other drivers.

“Despite the safety measures the county council takes and the advances in car design people are still having accidents. Once we get in that excellent vehicle, we seem to think we are safe,” he added.

“Speed is the single factor. I have 40 years of motor racing experience, so I am not against speed, but I know the dangers of speed.

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“The onus comes down to the road users - 95% of accidents are due to driver error, which is upsetting for the families who have lost someone who did not cause an accident. But to really get to the heart of the matter, it is the people.”

Mr Monk said the council was issuing its advice to motorists now to stop the increase in road deaths, which he described as “very concerning”, particularly as the last two years had seen a downward trend in the number of fatalities.

However, the council and police will not be implementing new initiatives to deal with the increased accidents beyond the continual improvements that were already being made in their “three Es” approach - education, enforcement and engineering.

Mr Monk said too many prompts for safe driving, such as fog or speed warnings, could put people in danger as it distracted them.

“We have got all these aids to driving, but people are failing to develop driving skill or perception of distance and speed,” he added.

In the past 10 years 500 people have been killed on Suffolk's roads, with 1996 seeing the highest number of casualties at 58, and 1998 seeing the lowest with 23 fatalities.

Chief Inspector Alan Pawsey, of Suffolk police, said there had been an “abnormal number” of multiple fatalities this year in crashes only involving one car.

“There has been a large spike in the number of fatalities. Regrettable though that is, we have to look at the bigger picture,” he added

“We could say 'Let's go out and do something radical here and change the world', but what it boils down to unfortunately is speed.

“The roads do not claim people's lives, but it is people that have done this to each other and to themselves.”

Rod Sore, team leader for safety and signals at the county council, said its budget for road casualty reduction - about £2.5million - was being spent on about 60 schemes this year that would save 80 lives and thousands of pounds of police and hospital money.

These have included SID, a mobile board that flashes up a happy face when drivers are sticking to the speed limit and a sad face when they break it, and the Suffolk SafeCam, which determines where all the mobile and permanent speed cameras are located.

There is also the national driver improvement scheme, which offers courses to drivers as an alternative to prosecution for careless or inconsiderate driving, as well as education strategies for schoolchildren.

“There is constant improvements being made and the expectation is that we get a better and better return for the community,” said Mr Sore.

“At the moment it is little bit too safe out there and people are taking their safety for granted.”

The police and the council have worked together to identify 13 zones in the county where there have been a series of accidents that have killed or seriously injured people.

Police patrols then concentrate on seven of the worst areas at a time, as well as the A12 and A14, which are monitored due to the sheer amount of traffic flowing on them.

Chief Insp Pawsey said the high-risk places were reviewed twice a year and the police and council would be looking closely into adding the A1101 as the 14th zone on the list after there were three fatal accidents there this year.

They will also be meeting with commanders at RAF Mildenhall air base on Monday to work out how to cut the death toll on the road and to ensure American personnel and their families understood the different road networks in Britain.

rebecca.sheppard@eadt.co.uk

THE SEVEN KILLED OR SERIOUSLY INJURED ZONES (KSI) BEING MONITORED BY SUFFOLK POLICE AT THE MOMENT

Zone Number Location No. of people KSI in 2000 No. of people KSI in 2001 No. of people KSI in 2002 No. of people KSI up to July 31, 2003

1 A12 Benhall to Lowestoft 16 10 11 3

2 A146 Lowestoft to Beccles A145 Beccles to Blythburgh 5 5 3 4

6 A11 Barton Mills to Thetford A1065 Barton Mills to Brandon 15 20 10 0

7 A1071 Ipswich to Newton Green A134 Newton Green to Assington 13 10 5 5

11 A134 Bury St Edmunds to Long Melford 6 2 4 2

12 A14 Dock Spur Road to A154 Trinity Avenue, Felixstowe 6 2 4 2

13 A143 Great Barton to Little Wratting 3 9 8 3

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