MOTORISTS are continuing to put theirs and others’ lives at risk by performing a dangerous manoeuvre on a stretch of road where a former driving instructor was killed while he carried out the move.
Just days after 60-year-old Hartlepool man Colin Brown died and 11 bus passengers were injured on the B1280 near the A179 Hart bypass while performing a U-turn, the Hartlepool Mail snapped many other drivers carrying out the same risky manoeuvre.
In the space of just an hour, our photographer snapped at least a dozen motorists using the left-hand lane to leave the A19 northbound to beat queuing traffic in the right-hand lane for Hartlepool.
A common occurrence is when drivers pull off the slip road as if travelling to Wingate, but a few yards up the road make a U-turn to head to Hartlepool – all just to shave a few minutes off their journey.
Though the U-turn is legal, safety experts have blasted the manoeuvre, saying it is not worth risking lives just to save time, and calls have been made for something to be done about the junction, including suggestions of installing a traffic-light controlled roundabout.
At least a dozen vehicles, including motorbikes, were seen driving up the sliproad past cars in the right-hand lane, turning left and then, after up to 100 yards, spinning round to head to Hartlepool.
Some did not even travel a few yards to turn - they immediately turned right from the left-hand lane.
Those travelling left before making the U-turn caused other vehicles behind to brake sharply as they slowed down to turn round.
Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer at road safety charity Brake, said: “It is vitally important that drivers stick to the rules of the road at all times, which are in place to protect them from risk.
“It is never worth risking a crash just to shave a few minutes off your journey.”
Hart ward representative on Hartlepool Borough Council, Councillor Paul Beck says although the scene of the crash is just outside his ward, just last month residents at a ward surgery had raised concerns about the junction.
He said he sent an email to Mike Blair, the council’s highways, traffic and transportation manager, regarding the junction, and he was told the authority is looking at issues regarding Hartlepool A19 junctions.
Ged O’Hare, chairman of Hartlepool Advanced Motorists, which helps drivers improve their driving techniques, said: “I have seen this happen and it’s just asking for trouble.
“Turning across any two-way traffic on a single carriageway on a single carriageway is fraught with danger.”
Mr O’Hare, who has 25 years of advanced driving experience, urged drivers to use the SLAM acronym – is a manoeuvre safe, legal, is there an advantage to be gained and could it mislead others.
“Being in a hurry doesn’t necessarily get you anywhere,” he added.
A Hartlepool Borough Council spokesman said the stretch of road, which is on a borderline of Hartlepool and Durham, is the responsibility of the Highways Agency, but said the authority shares Coun Beck and residents’ concerns and will continue to work with the relevant organisations to do every they can to improve road safety.
Durham Police Sergeant Jonathan Morgan said police are aware of the manoeuvre taking place at this location in order to shorten drivers’ waiting times, but said while they would prefer drivers not to do so, they are not committing any traffic offence.
Adrian White, Durham County Council’s head of transport, added: “We are aware of issues over the use of this junction and are due to meet with partners next week to discuss possible options.”
Mr Brown died after his silver Citroen C4 collided with a minibus carrying 11 people heading west, around 5.30pm on Thursday, May 16.
He was airlifted to Middlesbrough’s James Cook University Hospital after being cut free from his car, but medics were unable to save him.
The bus driver, in his 50s and from Crook, was not injured, though the 11 passengers were taken to the University Hospital of North Tees to be checked over.