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Are Norfolk’s roads getting more dangerous?

PUBLISHED: 11:33 03 March 2014 | UPDATED: 11:50 03 March 2014

Flowers and tributes left at the scene of a fatal collision between a bus and a teenager on Ormesby Road in Caister on Sea.

Flowers and tributes left at the scene of a fatal collision between a bus and a teenager on Ormesby Road in Caister on Sea.

Archant Norfolk © 2014

Three deaths on Norfolk’s roads in the last few days of February once again raised safety fears. But are our roads getting more dangerous? And where do the dangers lie? The EDP has obtained the locations of every fatal crash in the county going back more than a decade.

The deaths of three people in separate incidents on Norfolk’s roads has put the issue of road safety under the spotlight.

Two teenage pedestrians were killed in separate crashes at Caister, near Great Yarmouth, and Stockton, near Beccles, on Saturday, February 22 while on the previous day an 80-year-old man died from injuries he suffered in a crash at Stradsett, near Downham Market.

These are the most recent deaths in a tragic toll on Norfolk’s roads which have given us all cause for concern.

But the statistics received through a freedom-of-information (FoI) request, identifying the location of every fatal crash in Norfolk between 2002 and 2013, show that road deaths overall in the county have been going down.

There were 40 fatal crash location sites in 2013, compared with 70 in 2002.

Of almost 600 fatal crash locations during the whole of the period, 23 have happened in the Norwich area, 17 in the Yarmouth area, 14 in the King’s Lynn area, 12 in the Thetford area, eight in the Terrington St Clement, Tilney All Saints and Upwell areas, seven in Walsoken and six in Hethersett.

Mike Stonard, cabinet member of Norwich City Council for environment, development and transport, said he was not surprised by the figures, which showed there were more fatal crashes in Norwich than anywhere else over the past 12 years.

He said: “You’re talking about an urban area where there’s more road traffic and more interchange between pedestrians and cyclists, there’s greater density of population, more road miles being travelled.

Police view

Chief Insp Chris Spinks, head of roads policing in Norfolk and Suffolk, said: “You would
expect in urban areas there to be more collisions because there’s more vehicle movement and have contact with pedestrians and cyclists so that’s all part of it.”

In more rural areas, where there are fewer people around, Chf Insp Spinks said there might be “higher speed” involved in crashes, but he insisted that whatever reason for a crash, roads policing officers targeted routes where there had been a history of crashes.

He said: “Every collision where injury is suffered affects lives, but fatal consequences can, of course, be much more far reaching.

“Over the last 10 years the trend has shown a steady decline in the number of killed and serious injury collisions and we continue to work with our partners in local authorities and other emergency services to ensure this trend is maintained.

“We analyse the causes of these collisions and use this data to inform the deployment of our roads policing teams, both in terms of location and focus on causes, particularly the Fatal Four driving behaviours: seat belt usage, speed, drink drive and mobile phone use.

“We not only enforce and advise on the roads but we also provide education programmes to specific road user groups such as young drivers, for example.

“So far from September 2013, our officers have delivered presentations in schools, further education and other groups to more than 4,000 young people.”

“The question is what can we do about it, as one road death is too many.”

Mr Stonard said the council targeted what limited budget there was at improving junctions where there was a history of serious injury and fatal crashes.

The council is also behind other safety schemes like 20mph zones. But he said the key was in trying to reduce the amount of traffic on the road – and therefore the interaction with pedestrians and cyclists – in a bid to cut fatal crashes. Mr Stonard said the Transport for Norwich Scheme, which includes cars being banned from St Stephens Street and part of Surrey Street as well as buses travelling both ways in and out of the city via Chapel Field North and a new bus lane in Grapes Hill, was all part of the solution.

The majority of fatal crashes in Norwich have happened in the north of the city with Aylsham Road, Bignold Road, Mile Cross Lane, Woodcock Road, Drayton Road Boundary Road and Catton Grove Road among the locations.

In keeping with Norwich, Yarmouth and King’s Lynn are both densely populated centres where people, traffic, cyclists and pedestrians all share the roads which means that there is more chance of fatalities occurring.

But while the statistics might show there are areas of the county where fatal crashes seem to occur more regularly than others, Iain Temperton, team manager of casualty reduction at Norfolk County Council, said there was no longer stretches of Norfolk roads with crash-cluster sites.

He added: “My engineering colleagues will look at every fatal and serious injury that happens and on the highway and pinpoint it exactly to a particular stretch of road and see if there have been any other incidents in the last six years.

“What they’ve been telling me is we don’t have any cluster sites to treat any more.

“We don’t have these places. If there was a very short stretch of road where people are being killed or injured then clearly we would do something about it.

“There are stretches of road which may have crashes on them but not one site, so we’ve moved away from engineering the solution and now look at the road user rather than the road layout.”

Mr Temperton said the council in partnership with other agencies through casualty reduction schemes like Think!Norfolk, offered a “cradle to grave” service offering road users advice how to stay safe.

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