Why was this skidpan not gritted?

A YEAR ago two people were killed when their car crashed after skidding on an icy Suffolk road which had not been gritted.

Richard Cornwell

HIGHWAYS chiefs today face being sued by the victims of a series of crashes on an icy stretch of road which had not been gritted.

Just a year after failure to grit a road contributed to the death of two young people, questions are again being asked about the policy of keeping busy roads open even though they may be sheathed in black ice.

Four cars spun off the old A45 at Levington last week in separate incidents after the road surface was left untreated overnight.

As one of the victims was dragged from her car, she and police watched as a gritting truck eventually turned up.

Mother-of-two Becky Munday said as she lay waiting for the ambulance police officers confirmed the road had not been gritted and asked if they could close it but were told they could not as gritting was about to take place.

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Miss Munday said: “I couldn't believe it - the police officer said he had been refused permission to close the road and a gritter suddenly comes along and goes past us!

“There were three other accidents all within a short while of each other along there - the police got to me quickly because they were dealing with another one just down the road. It was like an ice rink.

“All this could have been avoided if they had just gritted the road the night before instead of 45 minutes after the accidents took place.

“I am fuming. I am in agony, I cannot work, I'm unable to drive now, and it is costing me £400 to repair my car.”

Miss Munday, 34, an accountant with Masons Paper in Ipswich, suffered a fractured neck, severe whiplash, and bruising to her right arm and hip in the crash.

She said she was travelling at about 30mph on the road at 8.30am on freezing Friday, December 5 when the car skidded off and went over on to its side.

“I knew it was a freezing day because that was the forecast and even though I expected this road to be gritted, I was driving very carefully,” said Miss Munday.

“I know about driving in icy conditions and twice I skidded and I handled the car and got it back on track, only to then hit another patch of ice and go off the road.”

“I could not believe that road had not been gritted - it's a busy bus route and is used by hundreds of people every day.”

Miss Munday, who lives with her sons Sam, eight, and Will, six, at Faulkeners Way, Trimley St Mary, said she had consulted a solicitor and would be taking legal action.

“I am going to seek compensation for my injuries, the damage to my car, and pay my partner Simon Jackson for taking time off work to look after me - and answers, not excuses, over why this road was not gritted,” she said.

- Six people were injured in a crash in Kesgrave on Tuesday when two cars skidded on ice.

The accident took place near a roundabout on the A1214 Main Road at 8.50pm.

- Is enough gritting carried out on icy nights? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

GRITTERS run by Suffolk County Council usually make a two-pronged attack on the roads when the weathermen forecast icy conditions.

Generally, Priority 1 roads across the county get gritted twice - at night and again in the morning - and Priority 2 roads in the morning only.

Priority 1 roads are all the principal and primary routes, plus selected other roads including all B roads, while the Priority 2 network includes at least one route to all main villages, regular bus routes and access to most schools.

If ice only is expected then Priority 1 network roads are gritted - 1,095 miles of road, using around 140 tonnes of salt, but if snow and ice is expected to persist then Priority 1 and Priority 2 network roads are done, 1,660 miles out of 3,900 miles of road in the county, using 330 tonnes of salt.

Each treatment costs about £10,000.

The county has a fleet of 39 modern gritters which use wetted salt, and special additives to help the salt stick better to the road. The salt comes from Cleveland Salt in Saltburn by the Sea where it is mined from a seam below the seabed.

A YEAR ago two families were left grieving after a double death crash on the icy B1077 at Witnesham.

Henry Wingate, 24, and Kirsten Duffus, 19, were travelling to a funeral when the white Renault Clio they were travelling in came off the road and ended up on its roof in a dip surrounded by trees.

The crash happened 30 minutes before highways chiefs sent gritters to treat the road, although officials said it had been treated the afternoon of the day before because of a forecast hard overnight frost.

The fatal accident was not the first on that day in December last year - there had also been two accidents earlier in the day. The road was not closed in the meantime, despite the police's concern.

An inquest heard the car left the road because it was very slippery but the deaths of the pair were the result of a tragic combination of circumstances - most seriously that they had crashed into a fence which did not collapse on impact.

However, had the road been treated it would not have been so slippery and the car would have been unlikely to hit the fence which ultimately killed the young people.

What Suffolk County Council say:-

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said the old A45 at Levington was not gritted the evening before the accident but was given a coating of grit at about 9am on the Friday.

The reason for this is the way the council divides up roads into priority levels according to how heavily they are used.

“On the evening of December 4 priority 1 roads were gritted which is all the A and B roads and were done again on Friday morning,” the spokeswoman said.

“The old A45 is a Priority 2 road and gritters were sent out at 7.44am and returned back at 10am.

“The old A45 was gritted at about 9am.”

Suffolk County Council said police can request that a road is closed if they believe the conditions are too dangerous but insist they received no such request on this occasion.

The spokeswoman said: “We didn't receive a request as far as we are aware.

“If the police feel they should close a road they have the authority to do so.”

She added that the council was not aware of any accidents being logged on that stretch of road on the morning in question.

“We do urge people to be more careful when driving in freezing conditions, especially open stretches of road like the old A45.”

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