Road safety campaign launched as cold snap cuts accident toll

THE cold snap has helped keep deaths and serious injuries off the roads in Hull and East Riding – for the time being, road safety experts revealed yesterday.

But a new campaign is being launched to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured amid fears by Humberside Police that incidents will increase as traffic gets back to normal.

Figures released yesterday by the force show that the icy conditions have actually reduced the toll on the region's roads because motorists have been staying at home or only venturing out for short journeys.

But Safer Roads Humber, the partnership dedicated to reducing crashes on the region's roads, is now gearing up to prevent a repeat of a trend identified by Humberside Police statistics that better conditions lead to more accidents in the force area.

Traffic Management Inspector Roger Mitchell said: "Statistics for the Humberside area show that most of the serious crashes, where someone is either killed or is seriously injured, occur when it is foggy or wet, because drivers do not adapt to the changing weather conditions.

"Surprisingly, during the early cold weather snap when we had snowy and icy conditions, we saw a reduction in casualties as motorists either stayed at home or slowed down accordingly. However, what we do find is that many motorists drive too fast and too close to vehicles in front of them when it's foggy or wet.

"It takes a lot longer to stop when breaking in the wet and drivers do not leave themselves a big enough gap to avoid the vehicle in front."

Historical data for the Humberside Police area shows that from January to the end of March is usually the worse period for weather-related carnage because of snow, ice, fog, wind and rain.

Insp Mitchell added: "Over the last two years' severe winter weather has blighted the area earlier in the winter season and for prolonged periods. We suffered snow conditions during practically every month last winter from October through to March. However, after each snowfall, the temperatures tended to rise and a thaw set in quickly, minimising overall disruption to the road network.

"This winter, snowy conditions again hit us relatively early, at the end of November and persisted until December 22, 2010. This winter's snow conditions have been far more severe and accompanied by consistent harsh night-time minus 17 and daytime minus three temperatures, freezing fog and icy roads. This has created havoc with the road network and all other modes of transport, including rail and flights."

But the recent severe conditions have helped to reduce casualties in the Humberside Police area, the force has revealed. Since the arctic conditions began on November 29 until December 22, only four people had been killed or seriously injured and 32 slightly injured in the force area.

This compared with the 24 days prior to when the severe weather begun (November 5-25) when 32 were killed or seriously injured and 224 slightly injured. "Therefore, it can be seen that the recent severe weather has had a massive impact on reducing road collision casualties," Insp Mitchell added.

"The reason is because the majority of motorists have been making far fewer and shorter journeys, driving more carefully and cautiously and at very low speeds. They can easily observe and feel the difference that snow and freezing conditions cause."

To launch the campaign drivers are invited to a free "winter ready" vehicle check on Wednesday at the Netto car park, Brigg Road, Scunthorpe, from 10 am to 2 pm.

Police, motor businesses and Safer Roads Humber are taking part in the event.

"Motorists can carry out some very simple measures to alleviate many problems associated with winter weather," Insp Mitchell added.

"Now is the perfect time to remind all motorists not to be complacent and to be extra vigilant in the months to come."