THE safety of a notorious junction in Havant town centre has been called into question following the death of a pensioner.
Although the road layout was not deemed to be directly responsible for the car crash, coroner David Horsley has raised concerns about whether the junction is safe.
An inquest was held at Portsmouth Guildhall into the death of 81-year-old Daphne Roberts, of Birch Tree Drive, Emsworth.
Mrs Roberts died at Queen Alexandra Hospital in Cosham from her injuries the day after the accident at the junction of Bulbeck Road and Park Road South, which is a busy dual carriageway.
The pensioner was travelling in the front passenger seat of a Ford C-Max while her 59-year-old niece, Lynda Woods, was driving.
At about 12.25pm on November 30, 2012, the car hurtled at almost 30mph from Bulbeck Road, directly into oncoming traffic travelling south along Park Road South.
Neil Fitch, from Hayling Island, was driving his Honda Jazz which crashed with the Ford car as it shot out of Bulbeck Road.
He told the coroner: ‘Suddenly I heard this almighty bang. The airbags went off. I instinctively braked. We were being dragged across the road and continued to be pushed into the central reservation and the railings.’
Mrs Woods, from Langstone, said: ‘I just remember the corner of Bulbeck Road, it was not feeling right.
‘I pulled over. It was just coasting.’
She added: ‘It suddenly lurched.
‘I was just checking everything. As I looked up I could see myself going out into the road.’
Mrs Roberts was cut out of the car and died from respiratory problems caused by multiple fractures of the ribs, chest sternum and a vertebra.
The inquest was told Bulbeck Road is a U-shaped one-way street, with an entrance and exit from Park Road South.
At the exit, cars can either turn left or right.
On the right turn they have to cross two lanes of oncoming traffic and visibility is restricted. Drivers also have to contend with cars turning from Burger King across the road.
The inquest was told Mrs Woods may have accidentally pressed the accelerator, but she disputes this.
Coroner David Horsley said the tragedy was the ‘unforeseen consequence of an innocent act’ and said there was no evidence Mrs Woods was driving recklessly. The death was recorded as an accident.
He questioned why there is a right turn on to such a busy road.
He added: ‘Hopefully some good can come out of it and we can make it a safer junction.
‘I know it’s not entirely germane to what we have been looking at, but it seems a bit odd.
‘I wonder if it could be taken on board why right turns are allowed?’
The highway authority will report back to the coroner.
Witnesses described their horror as the car shot out into the dual carriageway at speed.
Vivienne Fitch, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the Honda Jazz, said: ‘I was about to say “that car is not going to stop”.
‘Before the words were out of my mouth, we moved at great speed and into the central reservation.’
Cyclist Michael Gledhill said: ‘I realised with horror that this car was going out straight into oncoming traffic.’
Wendy Perkins, who was driving along Bulbeck Road, said: ‘I know from experience that the turn out of the service road is a difficult manoeuvre. The view to the right is restricted by buildings.’
Lynda Woods told the inquest she was intending to turn left out of the junction.
PC Tracey Saunders, a collision investigator, said no mechanical or electrical defects were found in the Ford car. She said Mrs Woods may have pressed the gas pedal accidentally.
She said: ‘The theory is that the driver, for whatever reason, presses the wrong pedal, usually in an automatic car. Then when it lurches forward, they panic.’
But Mrs Woods disputes this, having switched between manual and automatic cars regularly for more than 20 years.
The vehicle belonged to her uncle, who has since died, and she had driven it several times before.
Getting the junction looked at was welcomed. Ian Russell, who runs a barber shop, said: ‘It’s not safe at all. We are always seeing near-misses.’