Like any driving enthusiast, I’m sure you can remember countless roads that you’ve used over the years. Think of that wonderful, sweeping B-road surrounded by rolling green hills that you can cruise leisurely along, or the ridiculously narrow village street you have to edge your way down to avoid clipping your wing mirrors. We all have roads we love and hate for various reasons, and you probably think that you’re pretty hardened against some of the more nerve-wracking roads out there. Are you really though? In this post, we’ll have a closer look at what’s been called the most dangerous road in the UK – the A285.
Stretching out from Petworth, the A285 is made up of various tight turns, dips and climbs, and the occasional quaint village dropped in the middle. Though there’s nothing that immediately jumps out at you as dangerous about this road, it’s alarmingly common for people to reach dangerous speeds and lose control of their cars. According to studies done by EuroRAP, 40% of crashes that happen on the A285 involve motorists who veer off the road. After a little while driving down the road, you start to notice that it’s certainly unpredictable. There’s a distinct lack of flow that some other roads have, making the whole stretch very unpredictable. As you approach certain turns, you realise they’re much more sharp than you’d anticipated. Occasionally, you’ll find unexpected junctions in them, making the whole experience even more nerve-wracking. Aside from that, the long straights of the road come with many dips and falls which can seriously hinder your visibility. The unpredictable course of the road means that you can often find yourself having to brake sharply in the middle of a turn.
There are also patches where the road surface doesn’t give you as much friction as you’d like, and the double lines are patchy and faded in several areas. Fixing these issues would give motorists a second chance for handling the dips and turns, and make the whole road a little more intuitive to drive on. Seeing the curve of road markings would instinctively prompt an experienced driver to slow down. Furthermore, limiting motorist’s speed while taking corners will reduce the chance of run-offs, and accidents involving slower-moving cars. It’s not that uncommon to see joggers running down the shoulder of the road, appearing and disappearing around corners. More than one in five accidents that occur on the A285 involve a pedestrian or cyclist. Over the years, this one stretch of road has probably sourced a lot of compensation for car accident injuries!
With all the injuries and deaths that have happened on this road, the West Sussex County Council certainly hasn’t just swept it under the rug. Unfortunately though, they seem to have exhausted all the conventional safety measures in the book. There are electronic billboards and clear signs telling you to slow down, and a lot of the surfaces have been smoothed out. These reforms are just one small part of the county’s 20-year plan to improve their road standards. While I, and every other driver using the road, are very grateful for these safety measures, using the A285 is still a very tense ride. The efforts of the council haven’t gone far enough yet, according to many of the people who use the road regularly. One of the most common complaints is the danger posed to pets from the towns the road passes through. One local woman told Auto Express that she had lost four dogs to speeding drivers, all on the A285.
Other locals feel that the authorities aren’t doing enough, and some have decided to take matters into their own hands. Many residents of Halnaker, one of the towns the road passes through, assembled to pressure the council into reducing the speed limit from 40mph to 30. This was turned down, as the police said they wouldn’t be able to enforce a change like this. Deciding that the police weren’t doing enough, one local decided to set up his own speedometer at the roadside, intended to alert motorists if they’re breaking the speed limit. Despite measures like this, most of the locals say they’d like to see much more enforcement. Things like pedestrian markings, gateways on the outer rims of towns, and other kinds of enforcement are all being called for. With more visual cues, backed up by the threat of tighter police enforcement, it’s thought that the A285 can become just another perfectly safe road.
The A285 stands in stark contrast to one of the most improved roads in Britain: the A225. At a glance, you’d think that this road has far more accidents than the former. It’s far more built-up, the traffic is much heavier, and there are more pedestrians walking around. However, once you get to driving, you realise it’s a much safer stretch. Pedestrian markings are very clear on the 30mph route. Zebra crossings are placed sensibly and there’s a decent amount of high-friction patches. The road goes through a 40mph zone into a 60, and there are many twists, turns, climbs and dips. Despite this, the ample signage, high-friction parts of the road and pedestrian walkways mean that you’re pressed to approach turns with a lot more caution. Over the past five years, the A225 has had a massive ninety percent decrease in its rate of accidents, and the Kent County Council can take a lot of credit for it. Tara O’Shea, senior engineering project manager for Kent council, said “We understand that motorists can make mistakes, especially in parts where the national speed limit applies, so we installed systems to reduce run-offs, but also created solutions so that if a motorist does veer off the road, they will incur minimal injuries.”
As you probably know first-hand, the A285 isn’t the only road in Britain that’s in dire need of improvement. Always be aware of surface conditions, try to anticipate where pedestrians and animals can suddenly appear, and handle corners with care. As always, keep to the speed limit. Your health is more important than your punctuality!