Did slippery road lead to tragedy?

THE family of a mechanic who died in a crash have raised concerns about the surface of the notorious country road that claimed his life.

An inquest was held yesterday (Wednesday) into the death of Darren Taylor, 32, who lost control of his Land Rover Discovery on the B4525 Welsh Lane and crashed into a tree just before 5pm on November 22 last year.

After the hearing, his sister Katrina, 29, said she had been looking into the type of surface dressing used on the B4525 but had no firm evidence it caused the accident.

Northamptonshire County Council resurfaced the stretch of road a month before the crash using a material known as SMA (Stone Mastic Asphalt).

As reported in the Banbury Guardian earlier this year, residents in nearby Greatworth raised concerns about how slippery the route had become since the work and claimed there had been an increasing number of accidents.

Miss Taylor's partner Andy said this week: "The number of accidents on that road before and after Darren's death is alarming."

But the inquest in Northampton heard that Mr Taylor, who was recovering from drug addiction, had probably lost concentration.

Mr Taylor, who lived with Miss Taylor and their mother in Wardington, had been on his way to pick up his three-year-old son Joseph from nursery school in Bodicote.

Two passing motorists who stopped to help failed to revive him.

Toxicology reports on Mr Taylor showed recent use of heroin and cocaine, the inquest heard. But a post mortem failed to come to any conclusion about the sequence of events before the accident.

PC Shay Herbinson of Northamptonshire Police said tyre tracks showed Mr Taylor's car had veered onto the grass verge, hit a hedgerow and gone back out into a tree.

There was no evidence that he had braked before the impact but there was also no indication Mr Taylor tried to take his own life. The road was clear with no evidence of contamination, he said.

Mr Herbinson added Mr Taylor had not worn a seatbelt and there was no record that he used his mobile phone. There were no defects in his car, Mr Herbinson added.

He said the cause of the accident was probably a "lapse of concentration or the effect of drug use causing drowsiness in isolation or a combination of both."

In a statement GP John Tasker of West Bar Surgery in Banbury said Mr Taylor had a history of illicit drug use and had sought treatment. He was referred to a specialist for depression in 2003.

When he last saw Mr Taylor on November 4 Dr Tasker noted his mood had improved and that he was no longer using crack cocaine.

"He was generally feeling he was moving forward and managing his addiction and feeling a lot happier," Dr Tasker said.

Mr Taylor had recently separated from his wife Helen whom he met in 1998 while working for Bristol Street Motors in Banbury as a technician. She said their relationship had deteriorated the previous year when Mr Taylor became withdrawn and lethargic.

They sold their house to try to salvage their marriage. She said Mr Taylor's relationship with Joseph never suffered and he "doted on him". When she last met him, to go shopping in Banbury, on the Sunday before his accident he seemed very positive.

"He had begun to turn a corner and was beginning to get back to the old Darren I knew," she said.

She added he was talking of plans for the future.

The coroner Anne Pember said it was uncertain what effect Mr Taylor's drug use had on his ability to drive. She recorded a verdict of accidental death.

After the hearing Miss Taylor said her brother had been trying to come off heroin and was taking a substitute for it.

"He didn't want anybody to judge him by it," she said. "He was on the road to recovery and doing well. He was being positive and looking forward but his life was cut short."

Mr Taylor grew up in Cropredy and went to Drayton School in Banbury before training as a mechanic. He last worked as a service manager at Murley Citroen in Leamington Spa.