This news article made me cry. Mother Rachel Edwards, 6 months pregnant, with her son, aged sixteen, and daughter aged 2, had to make the hideous decision which of her children to help this August, as she plunged into a water filled dyke in Boston, Lincs. She chose to help her daughter, and her son drowned. I cannot even begin to contemplate her pain and anger, at herself, the world, everything. I wish her a healthy and happy new son or daughter. What I can contemplate is how very unique, and dangerous the Fen roads are.
Imagine, not knowing the area. You think it's all straight roads and a 50mph speed limit. Must be ok to drive at that, right? Wrong. Maybe you DO know the area, grew up round here. Ok to drive at 50mph for you. Maybe even faster. Right? Wrong. The drove roads are straight, for miles, but with 90 degree turns that you can't see. The camber is shot to pieces because of heavy farm and haulage vehicles. There are new potholes every day during the harvest season, due to the combines. The water in the dykes and drains is deep, and they flow fast. They're freezing. It's raining along the forty-foot, it's slippy. You skid, you're in. You're in, you need to get out. If you think you can do this easily, you're wrong. The death toll along one road this year tells its' own story.
The Fens have the highest teen death rate of any area on the road. This August, my own village/ town lost 3 boys in one weekend, two of them from the same family. Has it stopped the lads screeching their revved up cars down the drove roads? No, it has not. What would? Well, forgive me if you think that 50mph is a safe limit. It is not. Drove roads kill. The limit needs to be 40mph, less alongside drains, and there need to be cameras regularly along the roads. Fines need to be made, lives will be saved. This is not popular with motorists, and certainly not with the Conservatives,or indeed, the last government, who have enabled councils to remove cameras to save money. Not lives, though. If I were a 17 year old petrol head, and I lost a weeks wages to speeding, i'd think again. But the laws are not made on sense, car pressure groups and manufacturers have more sway than a death rate.
And why not a regional driving test? Why not make the lads (and ladies) learn how to get out of a vehicle under water, and provide them with window hammers? Make them learn how to cope with unsteady camber, right angles, left angles, sudden stops, the optical illusions of straightness the Fens produces. Make them learn how to overtake farm vehicles safely, and drive in pitch dark conditions alongside water. Make them, in short, pass a harder test. They might moan, but as a parent, I would back the idea. I'd welcome it. Before I climb into a car again after a period of not driving, I will voluntarily retake a test,locally. I'm sick of seeing roadside shrines where I live. I never want to see another family have to make the choice Mrs Edwards had to.
You can read more about the specific problems of safety on Fenland roads on the Fenland Road Safety Campaign site on facebook, here.