Driver behaviour must change on M11, safety report says

Tailbacks on the M11 following a serious crash on February 28, 2017. Picture: ARCHANT

Tailbacks on the M11 following a serious crash on February 28, 2017. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

An increase in crashes along the Essex stretch of the M11 has sparked a safety review from roads chiefs.

The Safer Essex Roads Partnership has carried out a study looking at the route after concerns were raised by Essex Police.

The collision rate on the M11 increased by 23% for the 19 months to July 2017, compared to the same period ending July 2013.

The report identifies particular hotspots: just north of the M25, around the A414 junction, south of the A120 junction at Stansted Airport.

Adam Pipe, force casualty reduction manager who commissioned the report, said the trends seemed to be continuing into recent months – borne out by Highways England reporting eight collisions which blocked at least one lane between junctions seven and nine in the past month.

Lorry driver who was almost four times the drink-drive limit jailed for causing M11 crashKey findings suggest in-car distractions – such as mobile phones – are a big factor in many collisions, combined with cars travelling too close to one another, and traffic queuing on sliproads.

Lorries are also involved in a large proportion of crashes, with poor visual checks when changing lanes a key factor in this group.

Mr Pipe said: “The trouble with the M11 is its strategic importance, and any collision has a major impact. The cost to the economy is phenomenal.

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“It is going to become more and more important – just look at the A14 development around Cambridge, and this will be a key route from the West Midlands and the north of England to the M25 and beyond. It’s only going to get busier.

“There are still a large number of people who look at their phone while driving. This combined with slowing traffic at pinch-points such as junctions is a recipe for disaster.

“It is so difficult to get the message through to people. But if drivers themselves change their behaviour in how they use the M11, they may find it improves for them.”

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Safety improvements that could be considered in the future might be an extension of the chevrons to aid drivers in keeping a safe distance from the vehicle in front, or variable speed limits to better control traffic flow.

The report has also been shared with Highways England.

Simon Amor, Highways England asset delivery manager, said: “Safety is Highways England’s top priority, and we keep safety on the M11 under continual review.

“We are looking into any potential causes behind the recent increase in accidents on this stretch of the M11, and will take action on anything we find.

“We are also working closely with Essex County Council on planned improvements, including the new junction 7a and small scale improvements at junction 8, both of which will have safety at the heart of them.”