A father has made an emotional return to a “dangerous rat-run” where his teenage son died because he wants to press home the urgent need for traffic calming measures.
John O’Connor returned to Malthouse Lane in Hurstpierpoint on Tuesday where, in 2007, Zach, a happy and fun loving 17-year-old, was a back-seat passenger in a car when he lost his life.
Tragedy struck again last December when there was another serious accident on the lane. Hurstpierpoint pensioner, Josephine Redhouse was hurt in the crash and later died from her injuries.
John said: “I’m not saying that a lower speed limit on Malthouse Lane would have prevented Zach’s death but perhaps it might have.
“It’s nearly seven years since he was killed and a day doesn’t go by without my wife and I and our son JJ thinking about him, remembering his smile and sense of humour. We miss him very much.”
Although there is a 30mph limit along a small stretch of the road nearest to Hurstpierpoint College, most of the lane has a statutory 60mph limit and motorists use it as a ‘rat-run’ between the village and Jane Murray Way in Burgess Hill.
Last year John supported a petition for a 40mph limit set up by horse rider Caroline Arnold, who keeps her horse in a livery yard off the lane and has been narrowly missed by motorists whilst out riding.
She said: “I am usually met with screeching breaks and an apologetic look.
“Jane Murray Way is a 40mph road with two very spacious lanes. Malthouse Lane has a blind corner, public footpaths and bridleways crossing it, farm traffic travelling down it and horses and their riders, yet its speed limit is 60mph.”
Caroline, with John’s help, collected more than 400 signatures for the petition for a speed restriction and after they addressed a South Mid Sussex County Local Committee meeting last Autumn, councillors decided to ask for a priority Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) for the lane.
Concerns over the lane were raised as long ago as 2006 when horse rider Louisa Gargan told the Middy: “I was involved in an accident with my horse who had to jump into a hedge to avoid a speeding car.”
Nearly eight years on and frustrated by red-tape, Caroline said: “In light of yet another accident I would urge the council to hurry the TRO process.”
John added: “It is a shame we have had to see another death on what can only now be described as a dangerous road.
“People need to really start to think when they are driving on the rural roads where the speed limit is still 60mph. The same can be said for instance on Isaacs Lane between Burgess Hill and Haywards Heath.
“A different set of skills is required on these roads from those on say a motorway.”
Anne Jones, who serves on the South Mid Sussex CLC said: “We would like this TRO to happen quickly but it’s not something that can happen overnight. The traffic engineers have to look at it and then, by law, it has to go out to consultation.”
* No other vehicle was involved in the accident which claimed Zach’s life in 2007. The young driver, Joseph Brady, who had passed his driving test two weeks before, was fined for driving without due care and attention after two juries failed to reach a verdict on a higher charge of causing death by dangerous driving.