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Suffolk crossing patrol woman quits

PUBLISHED: 05:30 30 January 2003 | UPDATED: 16:13 24 February 2010

THE woman with one of the most dangerous jobs in Suffolk has quit because she fears she could be killed.

Sheila Banham, the school crossing patrol at Stoke Ash, near Eye, has braved the notorious A140 twice daily for two years, and regularly witnessed appalling driving.

THE woman with one of the most dangerous jobs in Suffolk has quit because she fears she could be killed.

Sheila Banham, the school crossing patrol at Stoke Ash, near Eye, has braved the notorious A140 twice daily for two years, and regularly witnessed appalling driving.

No replacement has been found yet and most parents now take their children to and from school by car.

Her decision to quit comes just days after David Wood, Liberal Democrat county councillor for Peninsula ward, blamed "idiot" drivers for the road's appalling accident record.

Seventy nine people have been killed in the last 21 years on the road between Ipswich and Norwich.

Suffolk Conservatives failed last week in a bid to get decisions to approve 10-year strategies on the A140 and the A12 to be "called in" and referred back to the county council's executive committee.

The authority is ruled by a Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition and both motions to call in the proposals were rejected.

The plans include £837,500 for improvements to the county's stretch of the A140 until 2016 and £5m to revamp the A12 between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

Mrs Banham said: "I don't want to be mown down and I don't want to see someone else being killed. I really cannot go on.

Her decision to quit came after a collision last week in which a pupil in a vehicle sustained minor injuries and two drivers were injured on Tuesday after a two-car collision.

Mrs Banham, was talking to mothers on the side of the road, and said it was the first accident she had witnessed although the speed of speed of traffic on the A140 was "frightening".

Despite the proximity of the village school the speed limit is 60 mph and, according to villagers, a significant number of motorists drive at higher speeds.

"Even when the crossing patrol lights are flashing at the start and end of the school day many vehicles do not slow down and it is very disconcerting. I have seen some very bad driving," said Mrs Banham.

"The accident last week really brought it home to me that I could have been witnessing someone being killed or that I could have been killed.

"I never stepped out into the road to stop the traffic unless there was a long distance between myself and the oncoming vehicles because I didn't want to be mowed down.

"Once I had stepped out traffic always stopped and I was treated with courtesy, especially by the lorry drivers.

"But I have now resigned – I have really had enough," added Mrs Banham, whose own son was at one time among the children she showed across the road. He now goes by bus to Hartismere High School.

Gordon Leathers, head teacher at Stoke Ash primary School, said: "There is great concern among parents and staff about the road dangers and we are liaising with the county council to try to get something done."

Mike Langan, parish council chairman, met council officials to press the case for action. One possibility discussed was the hiring of a bus to transport children across the road into the residential area of the village.

David Chenery, the council's traffic safety manager, said both recent accidents were still pending investigation but an action plan for improving safety on the A140 had been drawn up and would include measures at Stoke Ash.

Mary Jarrett, school crossing patrol officer for Suffolk Education Authority, said: "If a crossing patrol is vacant, such as at Stoke Ash, we work closely with pupils, schools and parents on the importance of road safety."

The two drivers injured in Tuesday's two car crash on the A140 – about a mile from the school – were yesterday still in the intensive care unit at Ipswich Hospital.

A hospital spokesman described both men's condition as "stable". Their names have not yet been released.

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