Taming of a danger route

A WOMAN has walked away unhurt from a crash on a notorious stretch of road just days before its speed limit was changed because of safety concerns.

Her Citroen Avantage careered off the A361 at 8.30am on Thursday last week as she travelled to towards Banbury on the Williamscot Hill section.

As it left the road the vehicle flipped, landing in a ditch upside down in a crumpled heap.

A new 50 limit was introduced on Monday for the route's Banbury to Wardington stretch which has seen 60 accidents over the last five years, two fatal and 12 serious. Surrounding this latest crash scene were numerous items of car debris from earlier incidents.

Previously national speed limit, the road has been classed as a Route Alert by Oxfordshire County Council.

The un-named woman's crash was reminiscent of a fatal accident in 2001 when 30-year-old Deborah Brown of Chipping Warden died after losing control on a Williamscot Hill bend after skidding on ice.

And in the space of three weeks last autumn two lorries careered off a tight bend in Wardington, ending up on their side in residents' front gardens.

Anthony Kirkwood, senior officer for the county's road safety team, said: "The A361 had an appreciable accident history and this change in the limit should be a very efficient way of increasing road safety."

The road's safety record is equally dire across the Northamptonshire border where the Byfield to Chipping Warden stretch is classed as a Red Route by the county council. It has claimed the lives of three people in the last five years and is also to become a 50mph limit.

Chipping Warden residents set up the A361 Action Group in 2002 to campaign for new safety measures. Parish council chairman Nigel Galletly said villagers welcomed the speed limit change.

He said: "It's a very dangerous road and we're all in favour of the plans."

He explained the road, used by many as a link from the M1 to the M40, had a heavy flow of traffic. Its hazardous nature was exacerbated by its winding, undulating nature, high hedges and blind junctions.

"The worst problem is people overtaking," said Mr Galletly. "It's very winding from Daventry, and as soon as drivers hit the Warden Hill area where it straightens for a stretch they go for it."

No speed cameras are planned for the Oxfordshire stretch but Northamptonshire County Council installed a speed camera in Chipping Warden last year which Mr Galletly says has brought an enormous improvement.

He said: "A change in the limit is a good thing but people don't see speed limits as laws. Hitting drivers in their pockets is the best way to slow them down, though we still get people haring along and there must be two or three accidents outside Chipping Warden a year."

On the same day as the Citroen accident a man was taken to the Horton Hospital with head injuries after his Skoda left the road and hit a tree on the A361 near Bloxham. His condition was not considered serious.

The Banbury to Bloxham stretch is national speed limit but is not classed as Route Alert and there are no plans to change its limit.