Norfolk

Prince Philip A149 crash road speed limit will be cut

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Media captionWitness Roy Warne: "There was a huge collision"

A crash involving the Duke of Edinburgh on a notorious A-road has highlighted road safety, a meeting has heard.

Prince Philip, 97, escaped unhurt after his Land Rover overturned near the Queen's Sandringham estate on Thursday.

It happened a day before Norfolk councillors agreed to cut the speed limit on the A149, where there have been five deaths in six years.

Councillor Colleen Walker said the duke's involvement had brought the issue "right to the forefront".

The Labour councillor told the county's transport committee drivers often raced along the road, with its "blind corners and little bends".

She and her fellow members approved proposals to drop the speed limit from 60mph to 50mph and install average speed cameras along the A149.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Prince Philip, 97, regularly drives in the Sandringham area

The meeting was told there had been 40 accidents resulting in injury since 2012, including five deaths.

The proportion of those accidents resulting in death or serious injury was "almost double the national average", said the report before councillors.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Walker said the A149 had been discussed at "virtually every meeting" of the committee but the topic had been "pushed to the side".

"I think the fact that it was the Duke of Edinburgh involved yesterday, it has brought this right to the forefront, and I think we will now see some speedy work done," she said.

"I wouldn't say it was an accident waiting to happen, but it is something we have highlighted previously.

"Unfortunately it was who it was, and I hate to say this, but if it hadn't have been him would we be discussing this today?"

Image copyright Archant
Image caption Damage to the Land Rover's left side could be seen after the crash

The meeting was arranged before the duke's crash, in which two women in a Kia suffered minor injuries.

They were taken to a hospital while a nine-month boy in the car was uninjured.

Committee chairman Martin Wilby sent "extreme sympathy" to those involved.

Norfolk's Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, who lives in nearby Snettisham, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he had been travelling on the road for "40 years on and off" and had "seen a tremendous build up of traffic", especially where it meets with Station Road and Beach Road, about 10 minutes from the crash site.

"I really feel that I am taking my life into my hands whenever I have to cross the road at that junction," he said.

'No favouritism'

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Debris at the scene where Prince Philip was involved in a traffic accident

Norfolk's former roads policing chief said Prince Philip would be treated "like any other driver" by police.

Retired chief inspector Chris Spinks, who led the county's traffic team for five years, said the force would be treating the crash as "critical incident" due to the global interest in the case.

The status is used for investigations where public safety or the force's reputation is at stake and will mean scrutiny from senior officers "to ensure nothing is missed", he said

He said officers would be likely to follow-up on first-hand accounts by interviewing those involved, including Prince Philip, the day after the crash.

"If I was in my old job I would want an eye on what's going on, because there are reputational issues for Norfolk Constabulary if it's not handled properly," he said.

As an older driver, the duke's eyesight and fitness to drive could also be investigated, said Mr Spinks, who added there would be "no favouritism".

"In terms of process he will be dealt with like any other driver.

"Dealing with someone from the Royal Family is only different in that you probably can't pick up the phone to talk to them," he said.

Witnesses said the duke was "conscious but very, very shocked and shaken" as he was helped out of the vehicle.

A man who helped to free him from the crash said he saw the Land Rover "careering" across the road.

Norfolk Police said the two women involved in the crash - aged 28 and 45 - have since been discharged from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.

The driver suffered cuts, while the passenger sustained an arm injury, police said.

The force said it would be "inappropriate to speculate on the causes of the collision until an investigation is carried out".

There were 40 crashes - five of which were fatal - on the A149, which is the main route along the Norfolk coast, in the six years from 2012-2018.

A council report recommended lowering the speed limit and installing average speed cameras along the road between the Knights Hill roundabout and Snettisham - an idea originally proposed in 2015.

The average speed camera system will cover the A149 from the junction with the A148, about two and a half miles south of the crash scene, to Snettisham, six miles to the north.

Residents have previously raised concerns about a number of junctions along the A149, which is used by more than 15,000 vehicles a day.

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Media captionThe BBC's Nicholas Witchell says the duke regularly drives in the Sandringham area

Prince Phillip is back at Sandringham, where he has been staying with the Queen since Christmas, and has seen a doctor as a precaution.

The force said it was standard policy to breath test drivers involved in collisions and both had provided negative readings.

A woman who drove past the crash scene said she saw an ambulance and "a heavy police presence".

She added: "I saw a black, 4x4 type car on its side and me and my son were like 'oh my word, that doesn't look good'.

"Obviously it looked quite smashed in. I'm quite amazed he [the duke] is OK actually."

Prince Philip retired from public life in August 2017 having spent decades supporting the Queen and attending events for his own charities and organisations.

He did not attend the Royal Family's Christmas Day service at Sandringham last month.

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