Driver error and roadare part of the same problem

Date: Friday 20th April 2018

Sir, I agreed only in part with Sheila Atherton (Herald, 14th April) with her perspective on the A66, and take issue with her dismissal of the notion of driver error. She seems to have no feel for the highly nuanced concept of human fallibility.

Whether intentional or not, we are all capable of mistakes. I have roughly calculated that I have used the A66 between Brough and Penrith 14,100 times in my lifetime.

I have been drowsy on many of those trips, and I once passed through Kirkby Thore at 44mph for which I later endured ordeal by speed awareness course. I am one of tens of thousands of daily users, all of whom have human fallibility as part of their being. The highway needs to be fit for our purpose.

She is right that genuine accidents are few, given the sheer number of journeys made, but what if you are the victim of someone else’s “error, stupidity or arrogance”. You’ll be wishing that the road had been suitable to allow for margins of error without catastrophic consequences.

How far apart are lorries, especially those carrying huge static vans, when they pass each other at Crackenthorpe? It can only be inches. This is a highway that needs attention, but in the short term there are solutions. Since the stretch from Brough to Sandford was restricted to 50mph and proper double white lining introduced, the experience of travelling has been considerably safer. Turks Head was formerly a notorious black spot, but a steady trundle at 50mph along this stretch is now safer and a rather calming experience.

The key is consistency to prevent constant speeding up and slowing down, and this same consistency should be applied between the Appleby and Temple Sowerby bypasses — 40mph through the whole stretch including Kirkby Thore.

We’d get used to it and traffic would flow steadily. There would still be idiots, but regular users would soon make allowances, and as speed is also a limiter of margin of error, there would be more thinking time.

I am not an advocate for concreting over everywhere, but A66 upgrades must come. In the meantime, some improved management of the highway will further limit the pain and strain for all drivers, however imperfect they may be. Yours etc,


Kirkby Stephen.