British woman seeing spate of accidents on curve near her farm

By CHARLIE REED | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 19, 2008

TUDDENHAM ST. MARY — Bits of shattered glass and a license plate linger in Ros Norman’s mangled hedge along Barton Mills Road.

Three cars in as many months have crashed into the natural barrier that separates Norman’s horse farm from the busy road connecting the A-11 to the A-14, about four miles southeast of RAF Mildenhall. It’s happened 12 times in the six years Norman has owned Dachel Stud.

“Everybody has been extremely lucky. But I don’t want to have to start picking up body parts out of the hedge,” she said. “People think it’s a race track.”

The accidents occur when northbound drivers accelerate coming around the bend as they near the A-11 and then lose control of their vehicles. The 30 mph speed limit ends before the curb just outside Tuddenham, and there is no posted speed limit southbound coming from the A-11.

Since August 2006, about 18 crashes have occured on Barton Mills Road — also known as Tuddenham Road — according to the Suffolk County Constabulary.

“The last one, she got pretty hurt,” Norman said, recalling the most recent incident earlier this month. The British driver, who smashed through the hedge and flipped her car over, was taken to the hospital.

The scene has become all too familiar for Norman, who often beats police and emergency workers to the wreckage and is now petitioning local officials to install speed limit signs. Accidents have also occurred on the other side of the road with southbound drivers, and though no one has been killed or seriously injured there, “it’s only a matter of time if nothing is done,” she said.

The constabulary would not disclose how many cars involved in the last 18 crashes were registered to local U.S. military installations, though a spokeswoman said the majority were British.

Still, some have involved Americans and “they should be warned about the dangers,” Norman said.

U.S. drivers are not particularly careless, she said. But many are simply unfamiliar with area roads, and with a little rain and a high rate of speed, the bend on Barton Mills is tricky, even for those who know it well.

Base officials from RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath said the road had not been an issue for its safety offices.

Along with lobbying local parish and Suffolk County politicians to take action, Norman is reaching out to local media outlets in hope of warning drivers about the treacherous stretch of road.

Meanwhile, Rona Burt, a Forest Heath District councilor whose ward includes Barton Mills, said she is working with the Suffolk County Council to remedy the problem but doubts anything can be done.

Ros Norman contends the flattened hedge separating her horse farm from Barton Mills Road, near Mildenhall, is evidence local officials should implement a speed limit along the stretch near a dangerous curve.

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