February 4, 2006

The A682.. The World’s 9th Most Dangerous Road ; MIRROR BRAVES DEVIL’s ELBOW

By STEPHEN WHITE

A ROAD in Britain is named as one of the most dangerous in the world - and the Mirror has put it to the test.

It ranks with highways from Bolivia to Baghdad for deaths and injuries.

The 14 mile single lane A682 between junction 13 of the M65 near Nelson, Lancs, and Long Preston in North Yorkshire, had 22 serious accidents in the past three years - two of them fatal. Experts at Auto Express magazine worked out this was 0.5 deaths per 10 miles annually, putting it at ninth in the Top 10 blackspot list. It is a favourite for motorcyclists, especially early on a Sunday morning.

David Johns, editor-in-chief of Auto Express, said: "We all think British roads and drivers are incredibly dangerous but, with one exception, our research doesn't bear that out.

"The French take their lives in their hands when they drive around the Arc de Triomphe in Paris - there is an accident there on average every 12 minutes. Imagine the outcry if the same thing happened in London."

But what is it like on one of the deadliest routes on the globe? Being a bit of an anorak when it comes to driving, I just had to try it - by car and by motorbike.

As I pass through the village of Barrowford in a Volvo there are the usual problems, a TNT delivery lorry narrowing the road to a car's width, cars leaping in and out of parking spaces and a narrow bridge - nothing too serious. Then you are out into country stretches dubbed the Blacko Mile, and a corner nicknamed The Devil's Elbow. It just requires a little more concentration. The corners can tighten unexpectedly, you can feel a front wheel slipping from time to time - it is a icy at this time of year.

You have to keep your eye on the bends. HGVs seem to hurtle on, straddling the centre line. There is a dodgy junction in Gisburn that at dusk would be a bit of a lottery.

The corners tighten again and Long Preston comes into view. Just time for a quick cuppa and back to Barrowford to swap to a motorbike.

A biker in his late 50s says he has fallen off on the A682, at roadworks where trucks had dumped a puddle of diesel. His spill was at 20mph. He adds: "There must be a debate about excess speed. This is the sort of road that will test you and if you are found wanting it will punish you."

He was right. In the first few miles there are 30mph warning signs on every other lamp-post. Warning signs about slippery surfaces appear to be on the other ones.

You have to be very, very, very careful. The cambers are all wrong, pushing you out on corner when you want to tuck in.

There is diesel, mixed with leaves, mixed with mud, mixed with horse poo on every bend.

Worrying gaps in dry stone walls make you think twice about accelerating.

You run through the middle of farms either side of the road - the sharp gable ends make you roll off the power.

Workmen are putting up another dangerous bends sign with its 40mph limit. Their map shows a corner marked with red dots where on average there are 12 accidents a year.

They have erected huge chevron signs on the bend. In the grass are number plates, broken indicator lights and wheel trims.

It is a road I'd prefer in the summer because now I have to clean everything. It is a British road at its best - just beware of its reputation.

TOP 10 DANGEROUS ROADS

TOP 10 DANGEROUS ROADS

TOP 10 DANGEROUS ROADS

Road: Annual fatalities per 10 miles

Road: Annual fatalities per 10 miles

1 Yungas road, La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia 75

1 Yungas road, La Paz to Coroico, Bolivia 75

2 Route Irish, Baghdad, Iraq 70

2 Route Irish, Baghdad, Iraq 70

3 New Delhi to Agra road, India 33

3 New Delhi to Agra road, India 33

4 Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France 27

4 Arc De Triomphe, Paris, France 27

5 Algarve Coast road (N125), Portugal 21

5 Algarve Coast road (N125), Portugal 21

6 A104, Chiromo road to Nakuru, Kenya 20

6 A104, Chiromo road to Nakuru, Kenya 20

7 Ayrton Senna Highway, Sao Paulo, Brazil 18

7 Ayrton Senna Highway, Sao Paulo, Brazil 18

8 Sichuan-Tibet Highway 15

8 Sichuan-Tibet Highway 15

9 A682 from M65 to Long Preston, North Yorks, UK 0.5

9 A682 from M65 to Long Preston, North Yorks, UK 0.5

10 Eyre Highway, Nullarbor Plain, Australia 0.4

10 Eyre Highway, Nullarbor Plain, Australia 0.4

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