Episode 4 A1: Britain's Longest Road


Episode 4

Documentary series centred on the A1. Police race to the scene of a head-on collision. A milk lorry overturns, bringing rush hour chaos to the A1.


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Transcript


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The A1, Britain's longest road...

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..stretching almost 400 miles from the City of London

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to the heart of the Scottish capital.

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Connecting two nations and passing through 18 counties,

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it's an unrivalled highway,

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used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every day.

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We're going southbound down the A1 on the northbound carriageway.

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But not all journeys go to plan.

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I thought, "I'm going to lose my life."

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Cars are coming close.

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It is a dangerous place to be.

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Lives can hang in the balance.

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The rear-end of that vehicle is unrecognisable.

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This is actually the bodywork of the car.

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24 hours a day...

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It's not a safe place, here.

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..there's a team of people who keep us safe from harm.

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The police...

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..response teams...

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We don't know whether they've got the road closed

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-or we don't know what's happened.

-..and traffic officers...

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Keep going.

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..keeping Britain's most iconic road...

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Get out!

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..on the move.

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HORN BLARES

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Substantially damaged flatbed truck in lane two.

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The A1, the monster that it is, will start to return to normal.

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Coming up...

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a race against time to the scene of a head-on collision...

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Two vehicles coming together on a road like this,

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you're looking at 100mph-plus impacts.

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MAN CRIES OUT

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A lorry overturns and brings chaos to the Great North Road...

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So he's had to try and swerve to avoid and he's overturned.

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And a reckless speeder...

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88mph in a 50.

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..putting workers' lives at risk.

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You're barrelling into their roadworks doing 88mph.

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Seriously not cool.

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The A1 is a 400-mile superhighway,

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a key artery from Central London through the fields of Lincolnshire,

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past the northern powerhouses of Leeds and Newcastle

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before crossing the border

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and ending at Edinburgh's Waverley Station.

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In all, 15 police forces

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are tasked with keeping Britain's longest road safe.

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At its most northerly point, it's the job of Police Scotland.

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Nearly 20 miles from Edinburgh,

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PCs Stewart Logan and Davie Johnson are patrolling the A1...

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..and it's not long before they're

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called to a crash on a road that runs alongside the main carriageway.

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Roger, mate.

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Yeah, we are listening. We're en route from Haddington.

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With one of the casualties thought to be in a serious condition,

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Stewart and Davie need to get there fast.

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We're en route to what's been deemed a head-on collision

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on this road, which is the A6093,

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which is running parallel to the A1.

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As you can see, it's just a two-way undivided road,

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but it'll be a national speed limit,

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so you'll be looking at vehicles travelling legally up to 60mph,

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and then when you're looking at two vehicles coming together on

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a road like this, you're looking at

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potentially 100mph-plus impacts

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because of the nature of the speeds.

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Within minutes of getting the call,

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Stewart and Davie are at the scene of the crash.

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It looks like the van appears to have pulled out into the path

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of this, but we'll jump out and we'll assess it from there.

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It's clear this is a serious incident

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and with no ambulance on the scene yet,

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the first priority is to check on the injured.

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-Hi, Fraser.

-Chap here's complaining of chest pains...

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-Yeah.

-..and pain in his leg.

-OK.

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Alan's going to get an ETA for the ambulance

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just to find out what's happening.

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-Is this the driver of the van here?

-Yes. Uh-huh.

-Right, OK.

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A 72-year-old man is in the back of the car in considerable pain,

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but police don't want to move him until paramedics arrive.

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Hello, chap, have you got a wee second?

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In the meantime, Stewart interviews the van driver.

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What's happened, then?

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Uh-huh.

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So you were coming this way?

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Yeah.

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And she was sitting, waiting to turn right?

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Oh, right.

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Oh, right.

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Right, OK. Right, no problem at all.

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Are you all right in yourself?

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Right.

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The seatbelt or whatever, or just the impact from it?

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Right, OK. No bother.

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What to do, sir, is you just take your time.

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We've got an ambulance coming, so we'll get you checked out anyway

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cos you've obviously had a heck of a dunt.

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The ambulance has arrived and the crew start work on releasing

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the badly injured man from the car.

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I can support you here. Just take your time. OK?

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MAN CRIES OUT

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The old gentleman who's in the vehicle is going to be treated

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by the emergency staff from the ambulance

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and then we'll get an assessment on what we need to do,

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but at the minute, we'll leave the situation locked down

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because, again, we need to be tentative because of his age.

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MAN CRIES OUT

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Do you want the Fire Service?

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Get the board under his bum and just slide him with the board.

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MAN CRIES OUT

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-MAN:

-Aah! No!

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With the passenger in so much pain,

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the ambulance crew are struggling to free him from the car.

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If they can't release him soon, Stewart will have no choice

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but to call the fire brigade to cut him out.

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The next half hour will be critical.

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The A1 is the scene of more than 2,000 accidents every year.

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A large proportion of these occur where there's the greatest

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volume of traffic, such as the stretch of the road near Durham.

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It's 7.30am and Highways England traffic officers

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Peter Senior and Scott Wilson

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are heading into heavy rush-hour traffic

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when they get a report of a serious incident north of Durham.

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We'll head south in case 4-2 need any assistance. Over.

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An overturned lorry could mean serious injuries

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and, with a fire engine rushing towards the scene,

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it doesn't look good.

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We'll hit all the emergency lights and we'll pick our way through.

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Even though the accident is on the other side of the road,

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Peter and Scott are finding it difficult

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to battle through the traffic.

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This is all down to rubbernecking at the minute.

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And as Peter and Scott arrive at the scene, it's clear why.

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You can see the incident coming up now on the opposite carriageway.

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A 17-tonne truck has overturned after colliding with a 4x4...

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..and is now on its side,

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blocking a lane of traffic and the hard shoulder.

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Scott's first priority is to find out if there are any injuries.

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Now, then, how are you doing?

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Amazingly, the lorry driver is shaken, but unhurt,

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after what sounds like a terrifying accident.

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He was overtaking an LGV and he pulled into lane one,

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not expecting to see anything,

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then there was, for some reason, a bit of traffic,

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so he's had to try and swerve to avoid,

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clipped one of them and he's overturned.

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Thankfully, there's been no injuries,

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but he's had a lucky escape, to be honest.

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And paramedics have also given the driver of the silver 4x4

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the all-clear.

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With traffic still moving past,

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Scott's keen to get him off the carriageway,

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so police escort him and his damaged vehicle away.

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With everyone safe,

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Peter and Scott can now concentrate on trying to clear the carriageway.

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We're keeping lane two running for the moment.

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We've got recovery en route for the LGV.

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When it's getting righted, we will have to put a full stop

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on the carriageway just to get it back on its wheels.

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But moving the lorry could be harder than they think.

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Scott's just discovered it's beginning to leak its load

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all over the carriageway.

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Yes, yes. That is containing milk

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and it has started to go into the gully.

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The lorry was transporting 3,000 litres of milk

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from Leeds to Gateshead.

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It may not sound like a hazardous fluid, but if it's not stopped,

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it could have an impact on the local environment.

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A little bit can cause a big danger.

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If it gets into drains and gets into the waterworks,

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it can kill fish and all sorts of things.

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Using a specialist absorbent,

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the team mop up the leaks as best they can.

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But as the recovery cranes arrive to right the lorry,

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Peter's worried that disturbing the load

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could make the spill even worse.

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It's full of milk cartons. Some of them have burst open.

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We won't really know anything else now until they right the vehicle.

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If the whole load spills,

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Peter and Scott could face an environmental threat

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on top of the traffic problems already unfolding.

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It's going to be a testing morning for the traffic officers.

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More than 110 miles north near Edinburgh,

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the emergency services are also tackling

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another challenging and serious situation.

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A1 patrol officers PCs Stewart Logan and Davey Johnson are

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at the scene of a horrific head-on collision between a car and a van.

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Luckily, the driver of the van has escaped with just minor injuries.

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But a 72-year-old passenger is still in the back of the car

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with a suspected broken leg and suffering severe abdominal pain.

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PASSENGER GROANS IN PAIN

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-MAN:

-Aah! No!

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He urgently needs medical attention.

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-Well done, well done.

-You've not far to go.

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So far, the man's injuries have made paramedics apprehensive about moving

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him from the vehicle, but they need to transport him to hospital.

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-PASSENGER GROANS

-I know, I know, I know.

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With his condition not improving,

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they decide he'll have to make a painful exit from the car.

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GROANING CONTINUES

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Finally, after 15 minutes, he's free from the vehicle.

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Is most of the pain coming from your left leg?

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-Leg and his chest.

-Just the left.

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The injured man is an American tourist on holiday

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with his wife and friends.

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They were due to fly home in the next 24 hours.

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But with the man needing hospital treatment,

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it could be weeks before he's well enough to travel.

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The main concern is down to age. The gentleman's 72.

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People's bodies just can't cope with the same level of injury

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as younger people can, so we therefore have to be quite tentative

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about how we go about dealing with it.

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The man's injuries are serious,

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but Stewart knows things could have been significantly worse.

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In a collision of this level, if both vehicles had been older,

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then, yes, you'll be looking

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probably at more serious injuries on the...

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certainly the driver of the Nissan,

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because they'll have taken quite a whack of the impact.

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Everybody involved in the crash was wearing a seatbelt

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and that will have saved their lives.

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You could be the driver of this van, driving along the road,

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minding completely your own business,

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and then two seconds later,

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a vehicle crosses your path and you're involved

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in a head-on collision with it.

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Anyone who thinks, "I'll be OK, I'm only going two minutes up the road,"

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well, this is the consequence of the things that we witness

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and you just never know.

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As the man is taken to hospital,

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Stewart and Davey get to work clearing the road,

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so that some of the local traffic can get moving again.

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We're going to tow this vehicle back a bit, using our X5,

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so that we can at least get the road partially open.

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While the clear-up continues, some of the surrounding roads

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must stay closed, but not everyone wants to follow the police signs.

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If you wait there for us.

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Can you wait there for us?

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We have road closed signs at both ends of this road

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and as you can see,

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people come along and just say, "Oh, well, I'll just drive through it..."

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paying absolutely no consideration for what that sign means.

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It means the road's closed, so if it says closed,

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it means you cannae drive through it.

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Is there still a sign in the middle of the road

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-saying the road's closed?

-Yes.

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You know, there's people's safety at risk here.

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I'm out sweeping up debris in the middle of the road

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and you're coming battering along on a national speed limit road

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just because you've decided you can't be bothered

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complying with a road closed sign.

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You know, they're there for a reason, so if you see one,

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then please do what it says.

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Before long, the van and the car are recovered

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and the road's treated to soak up any oil and fuel spillages.

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As the traffic starts to flow again,

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Stewart and Davey can finally head back to the A1.

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Nearly 120 miles south of rural Scotland

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is one of the busiest sections of the A1 near Durham.

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It's here traffic officers Peter Senior and Scott Wilson

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are dealing with a serious accident.

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A lorry carrying 3,000 litres of milk has overturned.

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The driver has escaped unhurt,

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but his load is leaking all over the carriageway,

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with potentially devastating effects for local wildlife.

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It's a dramatic scene and passing drivers are slowing down to look,

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so Scott needs to try and keep everything moving.

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People slow up and it is a danger and it also hinders the traffic

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and makes traffic further back slow down and there can be

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further shunts further and further back,

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not even close to this incident.

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It's going to take two heavy recovery vehicles

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to right the 17-tonne lorry

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and the road will need to be clear.

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We do have to stop the whole carriageway

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to get the vehicle back on its wheels, so it is going to cause

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a few further delays, but it's just one of those unfortunate things.

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The specialist recovery team get started,

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raising the lorry with inflating cushions and onto wooden blocks.

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They can then secure the winch underneath, ready to pull.

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-Is it getting ready now, is it?

-I would think so.

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It's time for Scott to step out into the traffic to shut the road.

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Reporting Alpha Charlie Echo 4-1.

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That's the traffic stopped by hand. Over.

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But as the recovery truck starts to pull the lorry

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slowly onto its wheels, there's a problem.

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As they're starting to winch the truck over,

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because all the cargo's lying against the side of the wagon,

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the side's starting to split out of it, so what their concern is,

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if they get it so far, and it suddenly bursts,

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we're going to have milk burst all over the carriageway.

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The consequences would be serious,

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so the team have no choice but to stop.

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The lorry's sides simply aren't designed to bear

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the three-tonne weight of the load and so they need to secure them

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with heavy-duty straps before they can continue.

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But with the road closed, and traffic building,

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they need to work quickly.

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Closing the road is a huge decision for traffic officers

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and it can happen because of breakdowns, rather than accidents.

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Further south on the A1 in Doncaster,

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it's a chilly Friday morning.

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RAC patrol Noel Bonner has just started his shift.

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The roads can be a little bit busier on Fridays.

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It can cause a little bit of traffic.

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This stretch of the A1 - there's very little hard shoulder,

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so it makes it quite dangerous when people break down.

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Within a few minutes of joining the road,

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Noel receives his first call-out of the day.

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We've just got a job on the Doncaster bypass, so the A1M.

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We've got a vehicle that's got a puncture.

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It's had a blowout and it's got no spare with it,

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so we're going to go and see what we can sort out with that.

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59-year-old grandmother Janet

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was driving alone when her tyre blew out.

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Hiya. Who's Janet? Hi, Janet. Right.

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We'll get something sorted for you and get you on your way.

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Well, I was driving from my house to my daughter's

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and they heard a noise... I pulled over and found my tyre out.

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I phoned my daughter up and she's come out with friends to my rescue.

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It's been really scary.

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Shocked me. It has shocked me.

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With no spare wheel in Janet's car, Noel has to use a special one

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he carries that fits most makes of vehicles.

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Wheel's going to be fine. It's just where it's shredded,

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just makes it more difficult to pull them off. That's all.

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-He's doing really well. Yeah.

-Fast service!

-Brilliant.

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He's definitely my hero.

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Noel knows the hard shoulder is no place to gather your family...

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..because, on average, around 50 people are killed

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or seriously injured in accidents at the roadside every year.

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You don't realise how fast the vehicles are going

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while you're stood here.

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-They are going at some speed.

-Yeah.

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This is what scared me. I didn't like being out here on my own.

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Yeah.

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Within just 25 minutes, Noel has got Janet's car ready to rejoin the A1.

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-She'll laugh about it tonight when she's in bed.

-Yeah.

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-When I'm nice and warm in bed.

-Yeah.

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Keep on the hard shoulder because you're within 200 yards.

0:19:530:19:56

Just take your time and then just watch out for any traffic

0:19:560:19:59

that's coming off to then merge into it.

0:19:590:20:01

Noel has got Janet safely away from a dangerous situation.

0:20:020:20:06

The majority of the time we're helping people

0:20:060:20:08

on the A1 who are happy to see you.

0:20:080:20:11

They're happy that they're going to get something sorted.

0:20:110:20:13

Along with the road noise and the wind and the chill factor,

0:20:130:20:18

it does make it a scary place to be.

0:20:180:20:21

But more than 90 miles further north at the A1 in County Durham,

0:20:240:20:28

traffic officers are still tackling another high-risk job...

0:20:280:20:32

A recovery team is battling to lift an overturned truck

0:20:320:20:35

which is carrying 3,000 litres of milk.

0:20:350:20:39

They've been forced to stop the winch after worries

0:20:410:20:43

the pressure of the load could cause the sides

0:20:430:20:46

of the lorry to burst at any second.

0:20:460:20:48

Scott has no choice but to reopen the outside lane

0:20:510:20:54

while they try and secure the sides to prevent a major spill.

0:20:540:20:58

Our aim is to keep traffic moving, that's why we're here.

0:21:020:21:05

So instead of having it all stopped while they put more straps round it,

0:21:050:21:08

it's safe enough to keep things moving in lane two.

0:21:080:21:11

Then when they're ready, I'll stop it again by hand and then

0:21:110:21:15

we'll go and try and re-right it again.

0:21:150:21:17

It's now 11am.

0:21:170:21:19

Peter and Scott have been at the scene for three-and-a-half hours.

0:21:190:21:23

There are massive tailbacks,

0:21:240:21:26

but this is one job the recovery team can't rush.

0:21:260:21:29

Soon, the heavy-duty straps are in place, and they're ready to go.

0:21:300:21:34

So once again, Scott needs to stop the traffic.

0:21:340:21:38

Charlie Echo 4-1.

0:21:380:21:39

We've just temporarily hand-stopped traffic while they reposition

0:21:390:21:43

this LGV, over.

0:21:430:21:45

A mechanical winch begins to lift the truck.

0:21:480:21:51

While a second cable on the other side ensures the lorry,

0:21:530:21:56

and its precarious cargo, is lowered very gently.

0:21:560:21:59

They've managed to get the wagon back on its wheels.

0:22:060:22:08

Luckily, the big extra strap they put round

0:22:080:22:11

prevented the side from bursting over.

0:22:110:22:13

Some milk is still leaking.

0:22:130:22:16

But thankfully, it's only minor,

0:22:160:22:19

and the team are able to shovel it away.

0:22:190:22:22

Now the priority is to get the traffic moving.

0:22:250:22:28

As the milk lorry is towed away,

0:22:280:22:31

Scott and Peter remove the cones

0:22:310:22:33

and traffic is released into the inside lane.

0:22:330:22:36

Alpha Charlie Echo 4-1.

0:22:360:22:39

That's the lane one closure now removed,

0:22:390:22:41

you can reset your signs, over.

0:22:410:22:43

Finally, after more than four hours, Peter and Scott can be on their way.

0:22:460:22:51

And the major spill they feared has been averted.

0:22:520:22:55

If it had gone, it would have caused a lot of problems.

0:23:000:23:03

It's one of the worst things you can spill, isn't it, milk?

0:23:030:23:06

Why, there's no point crying over spilt milk, is there?

0:23:060:23:10

That's true. So they say.

0:23:100:23:12

Thankfully, overturned milk lorries

0:23:200:23:22

AREN'T an everyday occurrence on the A1.

0:23:220:23:25

But sadly, speeding motorists ARE.

0:23:250:23:27

It's a constant problem for the A1 police patrols,

0:23:300:23:33

especially in roadworks

0:23:330:23:34

when speed restrictions are in place to protect workers.

0:23:340:23:39

CAMERA BEEPS

0:23:410:23:43

61.

0:23:430:23:44

67.

0:23:470:23:49

That's absolutely outrageous, 67mph in a 40.

0:23:490:23:52

It's 10:20 in the evening on the A1 near Newcastle

0:23:540:23:57

and PC Alan Keenleyside is on the lookout for speeding drivers...

0:23:570:24:01

..in a 50 mile an hour stretch of roadworks near Dunston.

0:24:030:24:06

So, I've got colleagues of mine from our partner agencies,

0:24:110:24:14

from Highways England, from construction firms,

0:24:140:24:17

actually working on the road surface of the A1 northbound tonight.

0:24:170:24:21

And clearly the dangers of speeding on the roads,

0:24:210:24:27

at this exact stretch of road here,

0:24:270:24:29

last year saw a fatal road traffic collision at high speed.

0:24:290:24:33

One vehicle lost control,

0:24:350:24:37

overturned and the driver of that vehicle was killed.

0:24:370:24:40

It's Friday night, the most common day of the week to have an accident,

0:24:440:24:47

and Alan doesn't want speeders taking any chances

0:24:470:24:50

with the lives of the workforce on the road.

0:24:500:24:53

And it's not long before he spots a clear offender.

0:24:560:24:59

His onboard camera shows the car in front in the outside lane

0:25:020:25:06

travelling well over 80mph.

0:25:060:25:09

Using a detection device, he's able to record the car's average speed.

0:25:140:25:19

88 miles an hour in a 50.

0:25:190:25:22

And the driver's not done yet.

0:25:240:25:26

And he's getting quicker.

0:25:270:25:28

Alan has to get up to more than 90mph to catch up.

0:25:300:25:34

Flash the blue light.

0:25:340:25:35

SIREN WAILS

0:25:350:25:37

It's time to pull this driver over.

0:25:370:25:40

We've got roadworks on with a full road closure

0:25:420:25:44

and I've got the driver at 88mph,

0:25:440:25:46

so we'll be stopping this driver and having a word.

0:25:460:25:50

I think this is a driver that potentially knows

0:25:520:25:54

he's possibly in a spot of bother.

0:25:540:25:56

Hello, how are you? Do you know why I've stopped you this evening?

0:26:010:26:04

What sort of speed do you think you were doing

0:26:040:26:06

when I put the blue lights on to alert you?

0:26:060:26:07

-Um, 70, 80?

-70, 80? OK. And the speed limit is?

0:26:070:26:12

-50.

-50.

0:26:120:26:14

I've got it recorded at 88mph. OK?

0:26:140:26:18

The average stopping distance for a car doing 80mph

0:26:180:26:21

is more than 120 metres.

0:26:210:26:24

The equivalent of around 27 car lengths.

0:26:240:26:28

A collision with road workers or their equipment

0:26:280:26:30

would almost certainly have resulted in fatalities.

0:26:300:26:34

So, it took you 14.705 seconds, all right?

0:26:350:26:40

To cover a distance of 0.3604 miles.

0:26:400:26:45

So that equates to your average speed being...

0:26:450:26:47

88 miles an hour in a 50.

0:26:470:26:50

Certainly way over the top, isn't it?

0:26:500:26:52

Appreciate you're on your way home from work, all right?

0:26:520:26:55

But there's actually guys on this bit of the road here

0:26:550:26:58

who are at work on the A1.

0:26:580:26:59

And you're barrelling into their roadworks doing 88mph.

0:26:590:27:03

Seriously not cool.

0:27:030:27:04

The driver is immediately facing penalty points and a fine.

0:27:050:27:09

You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence

0:27:090:27:12

if you don't mention now something you later rely on in court.

0:27:120:27:14

Anything you do say may be given in evidence.

0:27:140:27:16

I don't usually speed, I usually stick to the speed limit.

0:27:190:27:22

Just a bit eager to get home today.

0:27:230:27:25

Probably lucky I'm not losing my licence.

0:27:250:27:27

For Alan, this has been a typical Friday night job.

0:27:340:27:38

People have had a pretty rubbish week at work

0:27:380:27:41

and they just want to get home to the wife and kids.

0:27:410:27:43

But do you know what? It doesn't matter how bad your week's been,

0:27:430:27:46

don't bring that frustration, that tiredness, onto the A1.

0:27:460:27:49

Because people get hurt on the A1

0:27:490:27:51

and that's the last thing anybody wants.

0:27:510:27:53

The American tourist who was injured in the head-on collision

0:28:010:28:04

spent more than three weeks in hospital

0:28:040:28:06

before returning home to the States to continue his recovery.

0:28:060:28:10

Police race to the scene of a head-on collision. A milk lorry overturns, bringing rush hour chaos to the A1. And a reckless speeder is tracked down after putting road workers' lives at risk.


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