Police to maintain icy roads policy

POLICE in Suffolk will maintain a policy of keeping roads open in frosty conditions in the wake of a tragic accident that claimed two young lives, it emerged today.

POLICE in Suffolk will maintain a policy of keeping roads open in frosty conditions in the wake of a tragic accident that claimed two young lives, it emerged today.

The force came under fire after an accident on the B1077 between Witnesham and Ashbocking shortly before Christmas left two young people dead.

An inquest last month heard that before the car carrying Henry Wingate and Kirsten Duffus slid off the road, police had asked Suffolk County Council to send out gritting lorries.

However officers opted not to close the road in the mean time.

An Evening Star investigation has found that police will continue their policy of keeping roads open wherever possible - despite other forces employing different tactics.

A recent example was seen when the M56 in Cheshire was closed at Junction 10-11 for safety reasons between 6am and 10.45am on April 6 due to icy conditions.

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A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said the force would continue to only close roads in an emergency - not as a precaution if they are concerned about safety issues.

She said: “It is the responsibility of all drivers to drive according to the prevailing road and climate conditions.

“Police are there to deal with emergencies on the highway and to keep Suffolk roads clear for use.”

An inquest last month heard that Henry Wingate and Kirsten Duffus would have walked away from the accident had their car not hit a fence.

Details of police attempts to call in gritters a short while before the accident were also heard. It emerged officers had been unable to speak to anyone because the gritting staff had been on a fire drill.

There had been another accident at almost exactly the same spot less than an hour before the car left the road - and although police felt it was dangerous enough to call in the gritters, they opted not close it.

On that day - December 12 - there had been a hard overnight frost. The B1077 had been gritted the previous afternoon, but not on the day itself.

However the stretch between Witnesham and Ashbocking had been very icy and other motorists contacted the Star to confirm how dangerous it had been.

A spokesman for Cheshire police said the closure of the M56 had followed “a number of minor collisions”.

“With any road closure, particularly on a motorway like that, the decision has got to be proportionate. While officers were dealing with the first collision other vehicles were having difficulty.

“From a point of view of protecting the lives of the officers and members of the public a decision to close the road was taken in conjunction with the Highways Agency.”

Should roads be shut more quickly if police are concerned about them? Write to: Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk>