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Driver error, not speed, causes A31 collisions, say police
5:50am Wednesday 21st August 2013 in News
HAMPSHIRE Police told the Transport Minister it is driver error that causes most collisions on the A31, not excessive speed.
The findings came in a report written for the Highways Agency, and sent to Transport Minster Stephen Hammond, who had the final say on whether a speed reduction trial would go ahead.
The force estimated that a lowering the speed limit for a trial period would cost £1.69 million and require "police enforcement at a level beyond our capacity to provide in order to achieve an acceptable level of compliance."
The Minister has now written to Ringwood Town Council to say he won't approve a speed reduction trial but has instructed the Highways Agency to install improved signage from Picket Post to improve driver awareness of the upcoming road layout.
He says: "Study findings clearly show that the vast majority of collisions occur during periods of stationary or heavy traffic with only three per cent being attributed to vehicle speed. For this reason, and given that the Agency estimates that a trial would cost over £1million, I have taken the decision not to proceed."
The Hampshire Police report states that between Jan 1 2003 and Dec 31 2012 there were six fatal accidents, 25 serious injury collisions and 162 slight injury collisions on the stretch of road between Ashley Heath and Picket Post.
Speed was not considered a factor in any of the fatal collisions or slight injury collisions and in only one of the serious injury collisions.
The report says: "Examination of the slight injury collisions identifies a majority occur during periods of heavy traffic volumes, when overall speeds are lower. A significant proportion is rear end shunt/impact collisions.
"During those periods, traffic speeds will ebb and flow for varying reasons such as sudden or unexpected braking, vehicles entering, leaving the main carriageway or changing lanes at last minute. Those types of manoeuvres will create pockets of stationary or slow moving traffic queueswhich will catch an approaching driver by surprise."
It adds: "Any collision occurring on either carriageway will result in traffic tailbacks. Tailbacks lengthen if a vehicle is damaged and requires recovery. There is usually no opportunity to move disabled vehicles off the carriageway and the problems worsen depending on the seriousness of the collision.
"A31 traffic volumes are very high and any obstruction of the carriageways creates lengthy queues, particularly on westbound carriageway. The queues cause drivers to divert away from the A31 to local roads which cannot cope with the increased traffic volume and this, inevitably, leads to severe congestion in nearby communities."
In its report, the Highways Agency acknowledges there has been an increase in accidents when traffic is heavy, but says most are down to drivers failing to react quickly enough to what's happening in front of them, rather than speed.
It says: "it is our considered opinion that ‘speed’ as a causation factor, is likely to be more of a perceived problem by Ringwood Town Council, as in reality the collision statistics do not support this."
The new signage suggested by the Highways Agency aims to
- improve driver awareness of the Picket Post, Poulner Hill and Ringwood junctions by enhancing the advanced signing of these junctions;
- improve driver awareness of the services (located west of West Street) by providing signing prior to the Ringwood on slip andafter the Ringwood off slip;
- improve driver awareness of the Verwood off slip and the need to be travelling in the nearside lane by providing signing prior to the Ringwood off slip and on the Ringwood on slip;
- improve driver awareness of the West Street merge and Fish Inn access (although not by name) by providing signing after the Ringwood on slip;
- improve driver information regarding required lanedesignations for the approaching Ashley Heath junction; and
- place greater emphasis on drivers exiting West Street regarding merging movements by installing a Give Way priority at WestStreet.
In his letter Mr Hammond says new signs should be in place by next summer.
For more on this story, see tomorrow's Daily Echo.
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