Watch out for a waterways peril

Experts have joined forces to launch a new campaign to try to persuade motorists to take care on roads that run alongside fenland waterways - for their own sakes.

Experts have joined forces to launch a new campaign to try to persuade motorists to take care on roads that run alongside fenland waterways - for their own sakes.

Accidents involving submerged vehicles as a result of cars running off the road are rare.

But figures published by Cambridgeshire County Council show there are three to four of them each year and, on average, one that involves death.

Investigations into accidents in which cars have left the road and the occupants have drowned show that, in the main, motorists were driving inappropriately for the conditions, such as speeding or even overtaking into oncoming traffic.

Road safety experts from the council and partner agencies will now enforce the "slow down" message to drivers and give tips on how to escape from a sinking vehicle.

The joint venture is launched today at Huntingdon. It aims to hammer home to drivers the importance of driving sensibly and warns that it is extremely difficult to get out if your car goes into a waterway.

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Cambridgeshire Constabulary will also include stretches of road alongside water, including the Forty Foot Drain, in its October speed enforcement campaign.

The drain near Ramsey Forty Foot has been the scene of a number of accidents in the last three years which have claimed the lives of five people in as many weeks. Three Portuguese factory workers died after their car plunged into the Forty Foot in January. A few weeks earlier, Dean Hawes, 28, and his seven-year-old son Jordan also died.

The campaign will be advertised on radio and through posters and leaflets going out to businesses and villages. Those involved include the police, fire and ambulance services and Mid-Anglia General Practitioner Ambulance Service (Magpas).

Debbie Maith, road safety officer for the council, said: "There are around 74km of highway in our county that run immediately alongside rivers and drains, and, while these waterways unquestionably add to the beauty of the area, they have also claimed the lives of drivers and passengers, often due to driver error.

"Although we will be giving advice to people on how to escape from a sinking vehicle, we want to stress that avoiding ending up in this situation in the first place is the best way to stay safe."