Recently a coach was involved with a collision with a lorry leaving a truck stop on the A1 at Witterings in Cambridgeshire. Three people were killed in the accident. One important factor that lead to the accident was the length of the slip road. The acceleration lane was found, by Accident Investigators, to be only half of the recommended 110 metres. In particular it was totally unsuitable for large vehicles trying to rejoin the fast “A” road where much of the traffic is travelling at 70mph. That strectch of the A1 carries up to 50,000 vehicles per day.
This slip road is just one of many slip roads that join fast sections of dual carriageway in Britain. A spokes person from Cambridgeshire Road Policing Unit said that “This slip road is not only joining a 70mph road it is also used by lorries with slow acceleration. What’s more it is also on a left-hand bend making observations particularly difficult. PC Edwards went onto say “Looking at the slip roads it is clear to see that there is considerable problems faced by all motorists who look to join. Rejoining the carriageway can take a long time if it is to be done safely. Drivers can become impatient which leads to them taking greater chances which in turn leads to more accidents.”
The purpose of these slip roads is to allow drivers to build up speed before joining. However this can be difficult on very short slip roads and with slower vehicles. It is also about timing too. It’s important for drivers to assess the gap and accelerate briskly to avoid causing other traffic to slow down. Unfortunately some drivers feel like it’s their given right to join once they have reached the end of the slip road.
A representative from IAM reinforced these concerns by saying “Motorists don’t have an automatic right to join the dual carriageway just because they have reached the end of the slip road. People sometimes assume that because they are at the end then other drivers will automatically have to let them in.” He also went on to say that “Drivers already on the dual carriageway can always move to the next lean if it is safe to do so in anticipation of traffic that might be trying to join.”
Good road signs can help motorists realise that a joining slip road is coming up. However sometimes there can be information overload when there are simply too many signs. Another option is to have lower speed limits at accident black spots. However this can itself cause problems when fast moving drivers are taken by surprise by a drop in the limit. Not only that but the drop in speed limit can also cause a tailback of traffic at busy times.
There needs to be a standardisation of slip roads to make them more uniform as they have on motorways. This can be a problem however as many are privately owned such as service stations. Dealing with the owners and also acquiring more land often from third parties can be difficult and expensive.
Let’s hope these changes come soon enough. In particular the A34 that runs near Newbury has some very short and hard to see sections of slip roads that can prove difficult for learners as well as experienced drivers.