New cats eye 'has improved A143 safety'

A new type of cats eye is being hailed as the reason for a dramatic improvement to road safety at a notorious Norfolk accident black spot.

A new type of Catseye-style road stud

has led to much-improved safety at a notorious Norfolk accident blackspot, experts said yesterday.

The solar-powered reflective studs, which give better definition of the road layout in poor visibility and at night, have been installed along two kilometres of the A143 over the Haddiscoe marshes between Beccles and Yarmouth.

Before their installation, 22 accidents were recorded over three years, two of which involved deaths and six of them involving serious injury.

Nearly all were as the result of loss of control, and many happened in damp and misty conditions.

Some 40pc occurred in the dark and two-thirds when the road was wet.

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In the two years after the introduction of the new studs, just five accidents were recorded, all of which were described as slight.

Nevil Calder, principal engineer for Norfolk County Council safety and traffic management, said his team was delighted with the results.

"We noticed an immediate improvement in road safety," he said.

"None of the accidents occurred in the dark and only one during wet conditions.

"The overall accident frequency has reduced from 7.3 per year to 2.3, while the severity ratio has reduced from 36pc to zero."

The results of the scheme were highlighted in a report by the Transport Research Laboratory, which conducted a study of the new road studs with Astucia, a business involved in developing advanced road safety and traffic management technology.

The research examined the potential safety improvements to night-time driving that could be achieved from introducing actively illuminated road studs.

The studs are solar-powered, charged up during daylight hours and store enough energy in the battery for up to 240 hours of night-time operation, creating a permanent glow.

The stud used on many British roads only works when reflecting the light from a vehicle's headlights and only guides the road layout ahead within the beam.

But the research showed that, when "active" studs were used, drivers kept their vehicles further away from the nearside verge on left-hand bends and spent less time near or over the centre line on right-hand bends.

This meant they were less

likely to collide or impede oncoming traffic.

Motorists who took part in the research said they felt more in control and more comfortable with active studs than with the other type of reflectors or no studs at all.

Martin Wardhaugh, chief executive of Clearview Traffic, the guiding force behind the Astucia brand, said "As traffic levels on the roads grow, developing new methods to ensure drivers' safety becomes increasingly important.

"Given current driving speeds, it is crucial drivers are provided with as much information regarding the road layout as possible."