A18 / A1101 Britain's Killer Roads


A18 / A1101

Joe Crowley looks at the UK's most dangerous roads and asks how we can make them safer. Joe looks at the A18 in Lincolnshire and travels to Wisbech to see the A1101.


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Transcript


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Last year, almost 1,900 people were killed on Britain's roads.

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It was just like the end of your world.

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And it's not always the motorist that's to blame.

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She would have been alive if there had been barriers there.

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Today, we expose these killer roads

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and ask if enough's being done to prevent more needless deaths.

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To stop any other mum or dad

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walk into a hospital and having to identify the son

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The beautiful Lincolnshire countryside

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with views from here stretching all the way to the Humber estuary.

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But just step over here for a moment and we have the A18.

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It's a scenic, rural, single carriageway. So what,

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you might think. How is this road any different from any other? Well, the truth is,

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it's been cited as one of the most high-risk roads in Britain.

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Set in the North East of England, the A18 winds its way

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through the South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire countrysides.

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The focus of our attention is a stretch that runs for nearly

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ten miles between the junction with the A46 at Laceby

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and the A16 junction, just south of Ludborough.

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It's a single-carriageway road that a recent report

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ranked as one of the highest risk roads in the whole of the UK.

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Between 2005 and 2009, this ten-mile stretch of the A18,

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known locally as Barton Street,

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saw 67 accidents resulting in injury,

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including 31 serious injuries and four deaths.

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Adam Nurse was on his way home from work

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after stopping to see his grandparents in September 2008

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when he lost control of his car on a bend and hit a tree,

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killing him instantly.

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My son, Adam, he was 18 years old.

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He'd just found out that he was going to be a father.

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He was just starting out in the world, and unfortunately,

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he never got the chance to go any further.

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The weather had turned to rain,

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it had started to rain quite heavily.

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He was returning home, came round a corner on the road,

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his car tyre caught the white line and caused the car to go into a spin.

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He then tried to correct it but he was on the grass by that point

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and the car was dragged into a tree,

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and he was killed instantly on the impact with the tree.

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This ten-mile stretch of the A18 has a notorious and deadly reputation.

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Since 2005, there have been four deaths on the road

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and one man who knows it better than most is local reporter, Peter Craig.

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Whenever word comes to the newsroom

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that there's been a collision

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on the A18, there's always a sense of trepidation because you know

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that you're going to be assigned to a collision where somebody could potentially have been killed,

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or at least very seriously injured.

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There are some people who avoid it because of its track record

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for collisions and because it's such a fast road,

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we've been to many crashes over the years,

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sadly, and there's a serious toll.

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Four deaths and 31 serious injuries on this road in just

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five years might not sound dramatically alarming

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but compare it to the national averages and the reality becomes clear.

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This ten-mile stretch of road is three times more dangerous

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to travel on than other comparable roads.

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The European Road Assessment Programme,

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a not-for-profit organisation,

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annually collates the number of deaths and serious injuries

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on nearly 3,000 sections

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of UK road and grades each section according to its level of risk.

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And this bit of the A18 is one of the most dangerous for road users

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anywhere in Britain.

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So, I set out to see this stretch of the A18 for myself.

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Here we are, the road to Boston and Skegness, the A18.

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And I suppose it's a little bit strange,

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suddenly driving on this road.

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I heard quite a lot about it,

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enough to make you a little bit apprehensive

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about this journey, so let's see how it feels actually driving it.

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Well, the first thing you notice is a lot of traffic,

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the first three things to pass - oh, very clos -

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are these big articulated lorries going past.

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Lots of them on the road. And it's narrow.

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That tanker, when it came, was right on the central white line,

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very close to the car.

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It's slightly intimidating, actually.

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And here, there is a crash barrier of sorts.

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There's a tree right on the road's edge

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so they've obviously almost fenced that in with a barrier, the sort of

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thing you'd see on a motorway, but I think that's the only one I've seen.

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There might be a few more around but certainly not many on this stretch of road.

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The road seems to have been a little bit patched up here and there

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so right now it's quite a basic stretch of road but mostly,

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it's as I'm seeing at the moment,

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slightly worn road, some faded markings,

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a soft verge, almost encroaching onto the road here.

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A few potholes as well.

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You're probably not seeing this very well because there's a bit of water on the road.

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The truck in front is throwing up all kinds of spray so the cameras

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we've got on the car are probably covered in water but this tanker in front,

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he's big and every time he goes round the corner - there it is again -

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his back wheel just comes and seems to almost hang off the edge of the road.

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It's a really narrow stretch for him, even when he's on the straight,

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he barely fits onto his side of the road.

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Wow, look at this guy. He's steaming along. Spray everywhere.

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And that's the size of some of the trucks that come along here.

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They're really big, actually and they're very, very regular.

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See, when the sun comes out and there isn't much traffic,

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this is a charming English country road.

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Of course, when you're actually driving it,

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you can understand why this is a high-risk road.

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Not very good sight lines,

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lots of bends, lots of ups and downs and just so much traffic coming at you,

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some of it absolutely huge - these heavy goods lorries are really

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bearing down on you and quite intimidating.

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65% of all fatal and serious crashes in the UK occur

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on single carriageway roads compared to just 11% on dual carriageways.

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Well, Nigel, it's hard to miss the flowers on the tree.

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Yeah. It's the spot where the accident obviously happened.

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Have you been back much to this site?

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Do you remember Adam here, or do you try to block it out?

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Adam was such a lively kid, no, you can't remember Adam sort of here.

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Yeah, this is where it's happened and I have come back to it once or twice

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but this is a place of sadness, where it happened,

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and I'd rather remember him for the fun that he had with his life, and so, no,

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I don't have any sort of feeling about this place.

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Do you think Adam was driving recklessly that day?

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I mean, what do you think? What did the police think?

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Well, at the inquest they said that he was doing 50 mph which,

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on this road, is below the legal speed limit

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but it was just with the conditions and everything like that,

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that well, it just caused it to happen.

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It was an accident that happened, but it was an accident that happened on a really bad road,

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a dangerous road, that's killed other people and seen other accidents on it.

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You often hear people saying roads don't kill anyone,

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it's dangerous drivers, but actually,

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-you know from personal experience that's not always the case.

-Yeah, it is.

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I mean, if it hadn't been for the road surface and things like that, the accident wouldn't have happened.

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He wasn't driving like a maniac, he was only driving a Vauxhall Astra.

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It was just a bog-standard car.

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It was not a performance car or anything like that.

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The road conditions and the weather played the big part.

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If the road had been in better state of repair, and maybe some barriers

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round the trees and things like that, the accident wouldn't have happened.

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There's always accidents on this road and there always has been.

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And until it's actually changed and altered, they'll continue,

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they'll never ever stop.

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Nigel believes his son would be alive today if the road had been

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in better condition and barriers had been in place,

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but to get a more objective assessment of the road,

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we've invited John Dawson, a road engineer,

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with over 35 years' experience of British roads, to take a look.

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As a former chief engineer of Scottish roads, and Chair of

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the European Road Assessment Programme, John is ideally placed to comment.

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So the road surface is distinctly falling off in quality

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on this section.

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It's narrow, again, for no obvious reason,

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and there's a large truck reminding us this is a commercial route,

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and we're mixing with cyclists.

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What on earth is going on in the middle of this road here?

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What are these markings? Don't know. Patchy road surface.

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Unprotected sign posts. Unprotected lamp posts. Unprotected sign posts.

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Unprotected lamp posts. There are a lot of basic safety features missing.

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Sometimes you can see the road markings are completely worn away.

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Now the road surface is deteriorating very sharply.

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Some safety fence on the left.

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It's interesting looking at this road, it's not quite obvious why

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safety fencing should be there and not along the whole length, probably

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in reaction to sometime, somebody has come off and been seriously hurt.

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I get the sense this is not a road that was ever

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conceived for commercial use.

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We're looking at quite significant heavy,

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heavy commercial vehicles and I just get the sense that this is

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a road which is not really fit for purpose.

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One mistake and you're dead, and this is not like dropping a plate

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while you're washing up.

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This mistake can kill you.

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Like Adam's father, John Dawson is concerned by...

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The figures show that the A18 is 25 times more dangerous than the average

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UK motorway, and for every death and serious injury, there's other

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near misses that could so easily have ended in tragedy, a point illustrated

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by an HGV accident we came across while meeting a local police officer.

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Well, we've got a single vehicle road traffic collision involving a heavy goods vehicle.

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What I would imagine's happened on this particular occasion is

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the lorry has gone to the nearside of the carriageway

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and as a result of being drawn to the nearside of the carriageway,

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has actually gone onto the grass verge.

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If you can see the difference in levels, quite clear to see,

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that even at this point from the tarmac, the hard tarmac, you've then

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got a drop of what, maybe a couple of inches at this particular point?

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And a little bit further up the road may be greater than that.

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So the vehicle, 44 ton, has gone from a hard surface onto a soft surface,

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maybe wet through overnight rain, it might be soft and damp anyway,

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and the weight of the lorry is actually pressing the ground down to

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a point where you can see the further it goes, the deeper it actually gets.

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It was travelling at 40 mph. It moved across to the nearside.

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It's dropped onto the grass verge, the verge is soft,

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the weight of the lorry,

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and we've also got a ditch which leads down into the field opposite.

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There was only one occupant in this lorry this morning.

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It was a male driver.

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He was taken to hospital with minor injuries at Grimsby and I think he's

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since been released, so very fortunate.

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Ironic really, not 12 months ago did I go to a similar road traffic

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collision and literally 30, 40 metres further up the road

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where the lorry driver's done exactly the same except

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he's oversteered, managed to oversteer,

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and pulled his heavy goods vehicle across to the other side of the road.

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It's evident that driving on this stretch of the A18 is a real challenge.

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The slightest mistake and vehicles are likely to leave the road.

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We'll pick up more about the A18 later

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'when I speak to the contractor responsible for the road safety.'

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-Lots of people are failing to cope. That's not their problem, it's the road.

-It is their problem

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cos when we pass a driving test, we're given a licence to be safe and we've got to be safe all the time.

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Throughout Britain, there are many carriageways with ongoing,

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serious problems, but change is possible.

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Many killer roads have turned themselves around.

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High-risk routes that have been improved with dramatic results.

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Winding its way through Suffolk and Cambridgeshire, is the A1101,

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a single carriageway A-road that on the surface looks no different

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to most other rural A-routes, but until last year,

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a section of this road had residents up in arms and demanding action

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If we hadn't mounted such a strong campaign and put

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so much into it, I don't think anybody would have done anything.

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Quite clearly, this is something very serious

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and the council have to listen to us.

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Since the changes have been made on this road,

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there has not been one accident.

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Just north of the Cambridgeshire town of Wisbech

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is a stretch of the A1101 known as the Gypsy Bends.

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Over five years, there were 22 accidents resulting in injury,

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including 11 serious injuries and seven deaths,

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on just 850 metres of road.

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For local couple, Fred and Josie McGrath,

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the dangers of Gypsy Bends were very clear to see.

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For over 20 years, they lived in the only house on the Bends.

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When we moved in, we had no idea that the road was dangerous

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but we could see out into the road from the window.

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And then came the day when the very first accident occurs,

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that we were aware of,

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and we didn't realise that it was going to be a pattern.

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You'd hear the bang.

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I'd lift the phone and Fred would run across the lawn.

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And I was phoning the emergency services and walking out

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towards him so that I could get more information to give them.

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In the winter months, I would be very much surprised

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if I didn't go out there once a week.

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I was always the first person on the scene.

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After some of the worst ones, Fred would have nightmares.

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He would be thrashing about and talking in his sleep

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and obviously was reliving it, I guess.

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I can remember one of them saying, "If we get a call

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"for this part of the A1101,

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"we know where to come", because they've been there before.

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It was clear to Fred and Josie

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that the drivers were often not to blame for these accidents.

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The road was playing a major role.

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So there was something seriously wrong with the bend,

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but there was also something seriously wrong with the speed

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people were allowed to hit the bend.

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That was 60 mph,

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and maybe people who were driving even faster than that.

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Of course. Yeah. People were driving fast than that, very often.

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Yeah. And there was numerous accidents

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where there were head-on collisions because people

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were overtaking on the bend as well.

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They were no experts

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but they knew there were four things wrong with the road.

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..increasing the risk of drivers ending up in the ditches.

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Over the years,

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Josie contacted the council numerous times pleading for change.

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First of all, I'd just make a phone

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call and speak to somebody who would be responsible for...

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-Highways.

-Highways, yeah.

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And the answer was always the same. "No. It's not bad enough."

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Then I started sending e-mails with pictures attached,

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and I didn't even get an answer, not even one answer.

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The accidents continued to happen, and in November 2007,

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Fred and Josie were confronted with yet another awful scene.

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"Fred, there's been two lorries hit each other outside,

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"I can hear it." So, he went out to see these two lorries

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but it wasn't two lorries.

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It was, in fact,

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a car that had crashed into the dyke in front of the house,

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flipped into the air and landed on its roof

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on Fred and Josie's driveway.

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The driver was conscious.

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The person behind the driver was conscious, but was hurting badly.

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The car on the opposite side was crushed.

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It obviously flipped...

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..in the air and come crashing down.

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There were two fatalities.

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Just seven months later, there was another death on Gypsy Bends.

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Roy and Sue Ashton were on their way home when they collided head-on with

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a car travelling in the opposite direction which had been overtaking.

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Sue was killed instantly, and Roy was seriously injured.

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In the aftermath, Roy requested all the accident data for Gypsy Bends

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and asked friends, Michael and Virginia Buckner, if they'd help.

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It was then Roy Ashton who got the statistics from the council

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in 64 almost unusable pages of data

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and said to us, "Can you collate these

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"into something more meaningful?" because he needed to understand

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'So Michael and I sat down after Roy had given it to us

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'and we sat down together and said, well,

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'let's try and make some sort of meaning out of'

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where the accidents had happened,

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highlighting it on a map exactly where it was

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and then it showed dot after dot after dot in a clear cluster.

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It showed you that the rest of the road was not the problem,

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that there was something not quite right at Gypsy Bends.

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Armed with the council's own data and certain it proved

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something needed to be done, the group set about presenting it.

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We put a note on the paper to say

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we would be in Wisbech Market Place, at a particular time,

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if people would like to sign our petition that was required

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just to speak for three minutes to the council on this technical issue.

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The first council meeting that we went to, and we were explaining

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with our three minutes, that the road had bends, and there was a councillor

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sitting there saying, "It's straight, I can see it's a straight road."

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They wouldn't have it that there were bends there.

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It was just ludicrous that there was a man sitting there

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saying it's a straight road.

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Whether it's straight or bendy, people were dying on it.

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The campaigners felt they'd clearly presented the problems

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with Gypsy Bends, but were frustrated as they became

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bogged down in what they saw as unnecessary bureaucracy.

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We had so many meetings and yet there really wasn't anything

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positive getting done. So, we'd now passed a year,

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there'd been another death on the road, there'd been at least

0:19:330:19:37

three or four more serious accidents

0:19:370:19:40

and still we couldn't see anything positive.

0:19:400:19:43

Beset by red tape,

0:19:430:19:45

the Gypsy Bends Campaign appeared to have ground to a halt.

0:19:450:19:49

But after 22 accidents resulting in injury, and seven deaths

0:19:490:19:52

in five years on just 850 metres of road,

0:19:520:19:56

the campaigners weren't about to give up.

0:19:560:19:59

The campaign now was really up and running.

0:19:590:20:01

We had this core team of Josie and Fred, Michael and I, and Roy,

0:20:010:20:06

saying we are not going to let this go, quite clearly this is

0:20:060:20:11

something very serious and the council have to listen to us.

0:20:110:20:15

Somehow, they have to listen to us. We're doing a lot of talking,

0:20:150:20:19

we're doing presentations to them, we had to do anther presentation

0:20:190:20:23

to the county council and do 50 more signatures for the county councillors

0:20:230:20:28

to listen to, and yet there was still nothing being done.

0:20:280:20:32

People always want immediate action.

0:20:320:20:34

Sometimes, if you rush into these things,

0:20:340:20:37

you don't come up with the right solution and sometimes it does

0:20:370:20:40

take a bit of time to actually analyse what's necessary

0:20:400:20:43

and introduce the right interventions

0:20:430:20:45

to address those accidents.

0:20:450:20:47

Often, when you've got engineering involved,

0:20:470:20:49

it takes time to prepare this, you have to do the design,

0:20:490:20:52

you have to mobilise the resources to do it,

0:20:520:20:54

and of course, we don't just turn up on the day and carry out the works.

0:20:540:20:58

There's a bit of planning goes into when the works are carried out,

0:20:580:21:01

and sometimes that can take a bit of time.

0:21:010:21:03

That's often frustrating for local communities.

0:21:030:21:05

Frustrated by the apparent lack of action, the campaigners

0:21:090:21:12

started to press their demands for improvements through the media.

0:21:120:21:15

People living close to one of the region's worst accident black spots

0:21:150:21:19

are calling for urgent road safety improvements.

0:21:190:21:22

In just six months,

0:21:220:21:24

five people have lost their lives on the A1101 near Wisbech.

0:21:240:21:27

I think it was the July or August, TWO years later...

0:21:270:21:31

..that we were on the Jeremy Vine show.

0:21:320:21:35

Good afternoon. The Jeremy Vine Show on Radio Two.

0:21:350:21:38

You are most welcome.

0:21:380:21:40

I'm joined now live from our Peterborough studio

0:21:400:21:43

by Josie McClinton and Fred McGrath,

0:21:430:21:45

who live on Cambridgeshire's most notorious black spot.

0:21:450:21:49

That is the A1101 between Wisbech town and the A17.

0:21:490:21:54

And they called the county council

0:21:540:21:57

because they needed to have feedback from the county council

0:21:570:22:00

and the county council said, "Yes, we're very aware of it.

0:22:000:22:05

"We're going to spend 350,000 on it."

0:22:050:22:08

This is August or September.

0:22:080:22:10

And they rang us back and said, "Look, you've got it wrong,

0:22:100:22:14

"the council ARE going to do something"

0:22:140:22:16

and I said, "Well, I've just been speaking

0:22:160:22:19

"to Head of Highways half an hour ago and I wasn't aware of it then.

0:22:190:22:23

"So, this is wonderful news."

0:22:230:22:25

Wonderful news that they're now going to do something.

0:22:250:22:27

The measures we've introduced at Gypsy Bends involve

0:22:270:22:31

various aspects of engineering.

0:22:310:22:34

We've improved the signing and lining -

0:22:340:22:36

some of the basics that you would expect

0:22:360:22:38

at some of our accident sites.

0:22:380:22:41

As an initial measure, we undertook some treatment

0:22:410:22:44

of the surface of the road to make sure it was clean

0:22:440:22:46

to take out all the grit and grime

0:22:460:22:48

that gets in the texture of the road

0:22:480:22:50

and that bought us a bit of time in terms of

0:22:500:22:52

improving the surface of the road.

0:22:520:22:55

We also trimmed back vegetation to open up visibility.

0:22:550:22:58

I suppose the biggest element of work was the engineering work

0:22:580:23:02

to reshape the profile of the road and to widen it

0:23:020:23:05

and that allowed us then to introduce

0:23:050:23:08

the double-white-line system to address the overtaking concerns.

0:23:080:23:12

There are still drivers that drive recklessly

0:23:120:23:15

and they will cause accidents, but the point is, it won't be now

0:23:150:23:20

because the road isn't fit for use.

0:23:200:23:23

As far as we were concerned, it wasn't fit for purpose,

0:23:230:23:26

and people shouldn't have been just driving down that road,

0:23:260:23:29

on that road, at the speeds that they were able to drive down there.

0:23:290:23:32

Since the changes have been made on this road,

0:23:320:23:38

there has not been one accident.

0:23:380:23:40

The data and the repairs to it proves that it isn't just

0:23:400:23:45

the drivers, because since the work was done in September,

0:23:450:23:49

there has been not one accident and before, every year,

0:23:490:23:54

there was a death and many accidents over many years,

0:23:540:23:57

so it proves that it wasn't just down to driver error,

0:23:570:24:03

it was to do with the road, and the road

0:24:030:24:06

needed to have these works done on them.

0:24:060:24:11

I think they've done a very, very good job.

0:24:110:24:16

It's a professional job now.

0:24:160:24:17

It's a job where we know that it's working, and we are happy with it

0:24:170:24:22

and, to be honest with you, if this was done, if people had realised it,

0:24:220:24:27

if that little bit of money -

0:24:270:24:29

cos it's not a lot of money in the real scheme of things -

0:24:290:24:32

if that had been done five years ago,

0:24:320:24:35

there would have been a lot of people still here today.

0:24:350:24:40

Nigel Nurse's 18-year-old son, Adam,

0:24:400:24:43

was killed when he lost control of his car

0:24:430:24:46

and hit a tree on a notorious stretch of the A18 in Lincolnshire.

0:24:460:24:49

Nigel is certain that the road was to blame.

0:24:490:24:52

We have lots of roads round here, but none of them have

0:24:520:24:56

the stigma and the sort of notoriety that that road does.

0:24:560:25:01

Is that because everyone that drives on it is bad? Well, no.

0:25:010:25:04

It's cos the road's bad and it's been known to be bad,

0:25:040:25:07

certainly 40 years that I've been sort of knowledgeable about it.

0:25:070:25:13

The key concerns about this road are its narrowness,

0:25:130:25:16

the lack of verges, a poor road surface and a shortage of barriers.

0:25:160:25:22

Responsibility for the safety of most of this road lies with

0:25:220:25:26

North East Lincolnshire Council, who sub-contract the role out.

0:25:260:25:30

Some work has happened along the stretch,

0:25:300:25:32

as the contractors highlight.

0:25:320:25:34

What we've done with the whole route is

0:25:340:25:36

look at a series of measures that spread along it.

0:25:360:25:39

That's looking at the edge markings to highlight where the road is -

0:25:390:25:43

but more importantly, where it isn't. The centre lines, and as part of

0:25:430:25:48

that centre line, we've improved the roadsters, the cats' eyes.

0:25:480:25:52

It's far more visible at night-time and in adverse weather.

0:25:520:25:55

We've looked at the road signs.

0:25:550:25:58

The signing and marking is, if you look at it again,

0:25:580:26:00

typically British.

0:26:000:26:02

It's a curate's egg. It's good in parts.

0:26:020:26:04

And then a little further on, the road condition just deteriorates

0:26:040:26:08

into sort of the condition you see in the former Soviet Union.

0:26:080:26:12

There's nothing to tell you that that road is as bad as it is.

0:26:120:26:15

It just looks like a normal road.

0:26:150:26:17

There's no warnings of the hidden depths.

0:26:170:26:20

There's no warning that there's no sort of kerb,

0:26:200:26:23

that it's just soft ground on the side of it.

0:26:230:26:26

They haven't done anything to actually make people aware

0:26:260:26:29

that it's a bad road.

0:26:290:26:31

The contractors are keen to point out that they do

0:26:310:26:33

carefully study any data they receive about the road.

0:26:330:26:36

What we will do when we're looking at road traffic collisions,

0:26:360:26:40

we refer, always, back to the police records.

0:26:400:26:43

We know from that, just about got everybody that's been injured

0:26:430:26:47

on our roads and then we can identify where we've got

0:26:470:26:50

clusters at certain sites,

0:26:500:26:52

problems along the route, or problems within an area.

0:26:520:26:55

And then we can target the investigation towards that.

0:26:550:26:59

From that, we will then promote a road safety scheme

0:26:590:27:01

and from that, we have works on site.

0:27:010:27:03

The contractors' approach appears to rely on them reacting to accidents,

0:27:030:27:08

waiting to see where problems are before they take action.

0:27:080:27:11

The corner where Adam Nurse died was only resurfaced

0:27:110:27:14

after he'd been killed, raising questions as to whether

0:27:140:27:17

improvements would have happened if the accident hadn't occurred.

0:27:170:27:20

I know that they have done some improvements to the road

0:27:210:27:25

but it's insignificant what they're doing, because it's the whole road

0:27:250:27:30

that's the problem, not just little tiny bits.

0:27:300:27:33

You can't just sort of say, "Right,

0:27:330:27:36

"there was an accident there, so, we'll sort that little bit out,"

0:27:360:27:39

because the whole road is an accident waiting to happen.

0:27:390:27:43

And road safety campaigners believe that councils

0:27:430:27:46

and contractors shouldn't wait for accidents to happen

0:27:460:27:49

but rather, take a different approach.

0:27:490:27:51

The recommended treatment from the Professional Institutions

0:27:510:27:55

for Road Engineers is a very proactive look at roads,

0:27:550:27:59

systematically seeking to eliminate known high risks.

0:27:590:28:05

There's a temptation to focus just on the crashes that have occurred

0:28:050:28:10

most recently.

0:28:100:28:11

For example, if you put safety fences at every high-risk spot,

0:28:110:28:15

you will stop dozens of crashes over a 10- or 20-year period.

0:28:150:28:20

If you just put a little length of safety fence as we saw on the video,

0:28:200:28:24

where there happened to be a crash some time ago,

0:28:240:28:28

then you just do not act at the scale

0:28:280:28:31

that is proportionate to the problem.

0:28:310:28:34

Dave Poucher points out that drivers also have a responsibility.

0:28:340:28:38

The view we've taken is, we shouldn't dictate what drivers do.

0:28:380:28:42

They are responsible. They should be able to drive

0:28:420:28:45

if they've got all the correct information.

0:28:450:28:47

It's up to the driver to say, "That's the information I've got,

0:28:470:28:51

"do I want to follow that advice?" Responsible drivers will.

0:28:510:28:54

That's just passing the buck.

0:28:540:28:56

That's just turning round and saying that it's the fault of the drivers.

0:28:560:29:00

Well, it takes two to tango.

0:29:000:29:02

If you've got a good road then you're not going to have...

0:29:020:29:05

Even if you've got drivers that make a mistake,

0:29:050:29:08

it's going to be a bit more forgiven.

0:29:080:29:10

You can't make a mistake on that road

0:29:100:29:12

because there is no forgiveness.

0:29:120:29:14

Now, when assessing how safe a road is.

0:29:180:29:20

Experts look at all sorts of things, from how junctions are laid out

0:29:200:29:23

to whether there's enough appropriate signage.

0:29:230:29:26

Another thing they look closely at is the road surface itself.

0:29:260:29:30

A poor road surface can dramatically increase the risk to users.

0:29:300:29:34

Now, I've come here to a car testing facility in the Midlands.

0:29:340:29:37

-Got Richard here. Hello, Richard.

-Hi, there.

0:29:370:29:40

We're going to do a load of tests, aren't we, on the road surface

0:29:400:29:43

and weather conditions to see what difference it makes

0:29:430:29:46

to road handling and stopping distances and that kind of stuff?

0:29:460:29:49

So, we're going to start dry. We have a very experienced driver.

0:29:490:29:52

Who's that over that?

0:29:520:29:54

-Pete Randall is one of our senior driving instructors.

-Great.

0:29:540:29:57

What speed will he be going at? How do we keep this

0:29:570:30:00

-scientifically accurate?

-We try and keep many things the same

0:30:000:30:03

and just change the grip that the tyre sees.

0:30:030:30:06

In this scenario, Pete'll come along at about 50 mph,

0:30:060:30:08

a steady speed, and will apply the brakes hard, full ABS,

0:30:080:30:11

keep his foot on the brake,

0:30:110:30:13

and he'll come to a stop shortly after the cones.

0:30:130:30:15

We're going to measure his stopping distance.

0:30:150:30:18

And the hard ABS thing, how important is that?

0:30:180:30:21

People often back off when they feel a bit of ABS kicking in.

0:30:210:30:24

You still need to apply the brakes.

0:30:240:30:26

All the ABS does is let them off temporarily.

0:30:260:30:28

-So, you need to keep pushing that pedal.

-OK. And he knows that.

0:30:280:30:31

-He's a top guy, right.

-Absolutely.

-Very good.

0:30:310:30:34

-And this, this seems like pretty typical asphalt.

-Yeah.

0:30:340:30:38

There's different types of asphalt, but this is a fairly regular surface.

0:30:380:30:42

-OK. And it's dry?

-Yeah. At the minute.

0:30:420:30:44

The sun is intermittently shining. Shall we give it a go?

0:30:440:30:47

-Shall we radio Pete?

-OK, Pete. Off you go.

0:30:470:30:51

Up to 50 mph.

0:30:540:30:57

Very good. Right.

0:31:020:31:05

-You're the man with the wheel. Do your measuring.

-OK.

0:31:050:31:07

'Over 95% of UK roads are made of asphalt

0:31:070:31:11

'so you'd think they should all be pretty similar in terms of grip.

0:31:110:31:15

'Well, the reality is that roads in the UK can vary dramatically

0:31:150:31:19

'and the type of asphalt used can make a significant difference.

0:31:190:31:24

'This road material is known as medium temperature

0:31:240:31:27

'and is considered to have a good standard of grip.'

0:31:270:31:30

-16.5 metres.

-Brilliant. Thank you.

0:31:300:31:34

'Now to see how the same road reacts in wet conditions.'

0:31:340:31:38

Now, have a look at this. This is why this place is so special.

0:31:380:31:42

Never have you seen so many sprinklers and so little grass.

0:31:420:31:45

Here we have several lanes of different materials

0:31:450:31:48

to replicate different road surfaces and different weather conditions.

0:31:480:31:51

They're all wet at the moment,

0:31:510:31:53

so we're going to put the car through here and see what happens.

0:31:530:31:56

So, Richard, we're in the wet now, the best watered asphalt in the Midlands.

0:31:570:32:01

Which surface are we on?

0:32:010:32:03

-This is the medium temperature asphalt.

-OK.

0:32:030:32:05

So, same procedure as before.

0:32:050:32:07

Pete'll come along at 50 mph, apply the brakes fully at the cones

0:32:070:32:10

-and then we'll see where he stops.

-And this is a recognised asphalt that could be used

0:32:100:32:14

again on our roads, so just seeing what happens when it's wet.

0:32:140:32:17

It's one of the many standard asphalts that we find on UK roads.

0:32:170:32:21

-Summon the driver, if you will.

-OK. OK, Pete.

0:32:210:32:26

-And the cone down is the dry breaking distance from last time.

-That's right, yeah.

-OK.

0:32:260:32:30

Let's see what a difference the water will make.

0:32:300:32:35

-Not as much as I thought, actually. So that's basically one car length...

-Just about.

0:32:350:32:40

..over what he did in the dry. That's impressive.

0:32:400:32:43

I thought it was going to be double that.

0:32:430:32:45

Tyre technology's come a long way. 18.5 metres.

0:32:450:32:48

Brilliant. Thanks.

0:32:480:32:51

'Developments in road materials mean the difference in stopping distances

0:32:540:32:57

'between wet and dry on the same road differ only slightly

0:32:570:33:02

'but what difference does it make if you're stopping on other road types, also used in the UK?'

0:33:020:33:07

OK, Pete. Ready to go on the smooth asphalt.

0:33:070:33:10

'This material is known as stone mastic asphalt

0:33:100:33:14

'and for the last decade has been used widely in the UK

0:33:140:33:17

'because of its durability, reduced traffic noise and cost effectiveness.'

0:33:170:33:22

OK. So, Pete's off. It's smooth asphalt, so it's slightly different, this one?

0:33:220:33:26

Yeah. That's right. It's a little bit quieter but doesn't offer as much grip.

0:33:260:33:31

-Ah. And we're still in the wet.

-Yeah.

-So here he comes.

0:33:310:33:36

-Wow.

-There you go.

-It really DOESN'T offer so much grip.

0:33:360:33:39

He's gone right past the cone there. That's the dry cone.

0:33:390:33:42

-Yeah.

-Before, it was about a car length different.

0:33:420:33:45

-Now it's...

-Probably ten metres.

-Yeah. Yeah.

0:33:450:33:48

So that is two different types of asphalt.

0:33:480:33:51

There can be a significant difference when it's wet, certainly.

0:33:510:33:54

-Absolutely.

-I'm intrigued.

0:33:540:33:56

All right, well, we should get the official measurement again.

0:33:560:33:59

-I'll let you do that.

-OK.

-Thank you very much.

0:33:590:34:02

'There's a marked difference in stopping distances

0:34:020:34:04

'between the two roads, and recent studies of stone mastic asphalt

0:34:040:34:08

'have also revealed that when this is first laid,

0:34:080:34:11

'rather than having a maximum grip as you'd expect, they are,

0:34:110:34:14

'in fact, as much as 30-40% less effective until they've worn in.'

0:34:140:34:20

-27 metres.

-OK.

0:34:200:34:23

Right. Very good. Now, I found that really interesting

0:34:250:34:28

because we got a bigger difference between different types of asphalt

0:34:280:34:31

in the wet than we did between wet and dry when we tested it.

0:34:310:34:34

Now, we're going crazy, we're chucking in some weather.

0:34:340:34:38

Over on the basalt tiles there, we emulate ice, wet ice.

0:34:380:34:41

And we'll see what a difference that makes to stopping differences.

0:34:410:34:44

So obviously no-one in their right mind is going to be

0:34:440:34:47

-doing 50 mph on wet ice, you'd hope, wouldn't you?

-Not intentionally, anyway.

-Not intentionally.

0:34:470:34:52

Very good. Right, well, let's radio the man himself, and see what happens.

0:34:520:34:57

OK, Pete. If you could start your run. Over.

0:34:570:34:59

He'll just get wheel spin

0:34:590:35:01

if he tries to accelerate too strongly on the basalt.

0:35:010:35:04

THEY LAUGH

0:35:130:35:18

Just... That's brilliant.

0:35:180:35:21

'The basalt tiles are similar to the standard floor tiles you might

0:35:230:35:27

'have in your home, but add water to them and the surface mimics ice.'

0:35:270:35:33

So, middle of the front wheel is there. 155.5 metres.

0:35:330:35:40

That is absolutely staggering.

0:35:410:35:43

Well, he nearly went off the edge of the course. That's amazing.

0:35:430:35:47

Just shows how careful you have to be in icy conditions.

0:35:470:35:51

Well, it has been a really interesting experience.

0:35:510:35:54

It's obvious that adverse weather conditions - snow, ice, make a difference to roads

0:35:540:35:58

and how you should drive on them, but what's really stood out

0:35:580:36:01

for me today, were the two types of asphalt we tried in the wet.

0:36:010:36:04

one of them took this car 8.5 metres more to stop than the other.

0:36:040:36:11

That's a huge difference.

0:36:110:36:13

And in the UK today, there is no one standard of road surfacing,

0:36:130:36:17

so we don't actually know which we're driving upon and clearly,

0:36:170:36:21

the different types of massive implications for road safety.

0:36:210:36:26

No parent should outlive their child.

0:36:410:36:44

It's wrong, you know, kind of in a way you know that your parents

0:36:440:36:49

and people like that will go before you

0:36:490:36:52

but you never expect it to be your child that goes before you.

0:36:520:36:56

It's just wrong and, I don't know, I just...feel bad.

0:36:560:37:01

You have good days and you have bad days

0:37:010:37:04

and on the bad days you feel really low and...it hurts like hell.

0:37:040:37:09

I felt guilty for being alive. It should have been me, not him.

0:37:110:37:15

He was just starting his life and that's how you feel.

0:37:150:37:20

He was a good kid, just a real good kid.

0:37:200:37:23

It's just to stop any other mum or dad walking into a hospital

0:37:280:37:32

and having to identify their son, or daughter,

0:37:320:37:36

cos I know what it's like, and it's the worst thing on this planet.

0:37:360:37:41

Adam was one of four people to be killed

0:37:470:37:50

on this stretch of the A18 in just five years.

0:37:500:37:54

Nigel feels the road let his son down, and there are road safety experts who agree.

0:37:540:37:59

If I was going to make improvements to this road

0:37:590:38:01

starting tomorrow, I would start with the signing and marking.

0:38:010:38:06

It needs an overhaul.

0:38:060:38:09

The road surface condition needs an overhaul

0:38:090:38:11

but the more fundamental problem of this road is to make it more

0:38:110:38:15

forgiving and more self-explaining to drivers.

0:38:150:38:19

We have lots of roads around here, but none of them

0:38:190:38:22

have the stigma and the sort of notoriety that that road does.

0:38:220:38:28

Is that because everyone that drives on it is bad? No.

0:38:280:38:31

It's cos the road's bad and it's been known to be bad,

0:38:310:38:35

certainly 40 years that I've been sort of knowledgeable about it.

0:38:350:38:40

I went to see the contractors who oversee the road to ask them what's being done.

0:38:400:38:45

I suppose you get reckless drivers everywhere,

0:38:450:38:48

so discount them for a second, it's just that on this route

0:38:480:38:51

if you make a mistake it's very unforgiving, isn't it?

0:38:510:38:53

It's very narrow, there are verges, cars come off the side

0:38:530:38:57

-of the road, lorries come off the side of the road.

-That's what we've seen

0:38:570:39:00

and that's the basis of a lot of the work we've done is to ensure

0:39:000:39:03

the drivers are adequately informed of what the road is

0:39:030:39:07

and what's ahead of them, and hopefully they don't make that mistake.

0:39:070:39:10

But is that enough?

0:39:100:39:12

You sort of think, isn't there a way the road could be

0:39:120:39:14

fundamentally safer, so, if or when they do make that mistake, it doesn't end in a fatality?

0:39:140:39:19

But you can do that wherever, can't you? It appears to be working.

0:39:190:39:24

And that's all I can say with any truth at the moment.

0:39:240:39:28

It appears to be working. And that's something we will continue to monitor.

0:39:280:39:31

Are the council aware?

0:39:310:39:33

Are you saying to them, "Look, we've got to keep an eye on this, this is a big problem"?

0:39:330:39:38

That's part of what we do, part of the day-to-day job.

0:39:380:39:41

You know, we identify trends

0:39:410:39:44

and bring that to the appropriate quarters within the council.

0:39:440:39:49

And perhaps that's the problem. Currently, the approach to the A18 is a reactive one,

0:39:490:39:54

not targeting the whole route or pre-emptying accident blacks pots BEFORE they appear,

0:39:540:39:58

just as it didn't at the part of the road where Adam died.

0:39:580:40:03

If lots of people are failing to cope in this spot, that's not their problem, that's the road.

0:40:030:40:08

No. It is their problem because when we pass a driving test,

0:40:080:40:12

we're then given a licence to be safe on the road

0:40:120:40:14

and we've got to be safe all the time.

0:40:140:40:17

I reject that, cos there's always human error

0:40:170:40:19

and if you've got a bend where people are coming off,

0:40:190:40:22

you have to change the bend, because people will continue to come off and continue to make mistakes.

0:40:220:40:26

You're right. On our journeys, we won't see an accident every day.

0:40:260:40:30

We won't be involved in an accident every day.

0:40:300:40:33

-But you do know that they are happening.

-Yes.

0:40:330:40:36

But it doesn't mean that you have to react specifically to the site.

0:40:360:40:42

-But after a while you do, if there's enough.

-No.

0:40:420:40:44

You look at why things are happening and you try and break that causation factor.

0:40:440:40:48

And you're ruling out that it's ever the road at fault.

0:40:480:40:52

What I'm saying is, the road by itself is not dangerous.

0:40:520:40:55

You put drivers on it, and then it becomes dangerous.

0:40:550:40:59

The stretch of the A18 between Laceby and Ludborough

0:41:050:41:09

has a notorious reputation as an accident black spot, and rightly so,

0:41:090:41:13

with 31 serious injuries and four deaths in just five years.

0:41:130:41:18

Efforts have been made by the council

0:41:180:41:21

since 2009 to improve the route, but it's argued that these improvements

0:41:210:41:25

are purely reactive, insufficient, and don't address the whole stretch.

0:41:250:41:31

If it weren't raining that day, he probably wouldn't have died.

0:41:310:41:34

I suppose I can't control the weather and things like that

0:41:360:41:39

but when it comes to the road, then that's something that people

0:41:390:41:42

CAN control and do something about so, for me,

0:41:420:41:44

it was a needless death on a road that's clamed so many victims

0:41:440:41:51

and caused so much grief to so many people.

0:41:510:41:54

There's no get-out-of-jail-for-free card in this.

0:41:540:41:58

Road authorities, drivers, vehicle manufacturers have all got to

0:41:580:42:03

take their share of the responsibility.

0:42:030:42:06

Can't help thinking there's too much reliance here

0:42:060:42:09

on how drivers cope with the A18

0:42:090:42:11

and not enough focus on making the road, itself, safer.

0:42:110:42:15

I mean, yes, some work's been done.

0:42:150:42:17

Hopefully it will make the difference

0:42:170:42:19

but just maybe a different approach is needed if we're going to

0:42:190:42:23

stop others going through those horrors experienced by Nigel Nurse.

0:42:230:42:28

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:42:370:42:39

E-mail [email protected]

0:42:390:42:41

Joe Crowley has been travelling up and down the UK looking at some of the nation's most dangerous roads and asking if there is more that can be done to make these routes safer for those who use them.

Joe is in Lincolnshire where he is looking at the A18, a road that a recent report ranked as one of the most dangerous for drivers anywhere in the UK. He meets the father of one tragic victim and gets the assessment of an independent road safety expert, before confronting those responsible for the road.

Also on the show, we travel to Wisbech in Cambridgeshire to hear how a concerted local campaign saw major work carried out on a short stretch of the A1101 resulting in a dramatic improvement in safety; and Joe finds out what difference the type of road surface you are driving on makes to stopping distances.


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