A303 Dual It! How careless driving hits you in the pocket
As part of its A303 Dual It! campaign, the Western Gazette has vowed to raise awareness of driver safety. Rob Golledge spends time at the wheel alongside an advanced driver trainer...
PHILIP Hastings has seen many car crashes.
For 15 years he prosecuted motorists as part of the Metropolitan Police legal team.
Then as a firefighter he was among the first to respond to horrific and devastating scenes on the roads.
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Now as a driving trainer, he spends his days teaching a huge range of people from all over the world how to improve their driving and be safe.
I meet him the at the base of his company Onward Driver Training in Sherborne.
We are to travel down the A303 from Wincanton to the edge of the Blackdown Hills and back.
He is driving and I am in the passenger seat.
As we travel down one of the already dualled sections we are being overtaken by vehicles that are clearly driving over the 70mph limit.
“People don’t realise that once you exceed the 70mph speed limit it is likely you will plough through the central reservation if you were to hit it.
“It may be that you are deflected back but once you get over 70mph and 80 or 90, you will probably go straight through.”
As we near Sparkford, cars ahead suddenly put on the brakes to slow down for the Hazelgrove roundabout.
As well as the dangers associated with late braking, Philip says there is also a financial reason to ease off on the approach.
“Drivers don’t think about the fuel consumption,” he said.
“Once you start travelling over 60mph you are using vast quantities of fuel.
“Around 60mph is the optimum speed for fuel consumption versus the time it takes you to arrive at your destination.
“Over a 25-mile journey, travelling at 80mph will only get you to where you are two minutes earlier. However, the amount of fuel you use will be significantly greater.
“At a time when fuel costs are so high, it is worth considering the manner in which you drive.
“Over a year it will save you hundreds of pounds.”
As we leave the Hazelgrove roundabout we face one of the A303’s “pinch points”.
A Honda zooms past us in the short merger lane and speeds ahead in excess of the 50mph limit on the stretch.
But we soon catch up, travelling at a safe distance behind, as the Honda is forced to slow down by a truck travelling at the speed limit.
“The Honda is no further ahead but has used about an egg cup more of fuel,” said Philip.
“If he or she is doing this several times a day they will be wasting a huge amount of fuel.”
As we get closer to Podimore, Philip points out roadside signs which motorists should pay attention to.
These include signs for the service station, junction countdown signs, and roundabout warning signs.
Philip eases off the accelerator and we slow down as cars pass us in the outside lane.
Once again they all are forced to suddenly brake at the roundabout.
Keeping a constant speed Philip and I have soon caught up, safely and without using excess fuel.
As we head past the Cartgate roundabout and towards the Ilminster bypass we experience one of motorists’ bugbears – tailgating.
“A lot of people will always say their biggest grievance is tailgating. But what they don’t realise is that they do it too”.
On one of the single carriageway sections of the Ilminster bypass, traffic is bunched.
“The drivers have not got any safety space and you can see that they are having to step on the brakes because they are too close.
“In my experience it seems to be a British thing, that when we are in our cars there is this desire to cram on to the roads and not give each other any room.
“If there was an accident or one of the cars had an engine fault, there could be nothing they could do to avoid a crash.
“It’s much safer and economical to sit back and keep a constant speed.
“The aim is not to touch the brake pedal.”
We are now travelling on one of the sections of Ilminster bypass where traffic goes from one to two lanes.
Inevitably there are cars waiting to fly past us at the earliest opportunity.
“The road itself is no more dangerous than any other but people see it as an invitation to get right to the front of all the traffic in the inside lane,” said Philip.
“There is an attitude here of ‘I do it because I can’ not because ‘I should’.
“The danger here is that cars swoop in front of other cars and particularly lorries.
“The space in front of a lorry is its safety space. It’s not there for other cars to pull into. It’s there for it to stop. But many motorists don’t realise this and create dangerous situations.
“Swooping or cutting in front of another car is very dangerous.”
Philip, who has been part of a Department for Transport working committee looking at the overhaul of driver training, says he broadly supports the Western Gazette’s Dual It! campaign.
But he thinks changing driver behaviour and attitude is the most important way of improving safety.
He said: “There is a difference between those who drive because they want to and those who drive because they must. You essentially have drivers and car users.
“I compare driving to making a cup of tea. People do it without thinking. They’ve been doing it for years without incident but it’s not until you pour boiling water on your hand that you realise the danger.
“We need a shift in the way we treat driving.”
A303 DUAL IT! CAMPAIGN - INTERACTIVE MAP
Our interactive map shows details of crashes dealt with by emergency services on the Somerset stretch of the A303 between 2006 and 2011. Data is from the Department of Transport.
Find your way around our interactive map using the navigation controls (top left of the map) or your mouse to scroll, or zoom in or out.
Click on the individual pins for details of each crash including date, time, conditions, number of vehicles involved and severity of injuries.
Red pins mark fatal collisions, yellow pins show collisions involving serious injury and blue pins show collisions with slight injury.
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