At the last full Council meeting I kept up the pressure to improve road safety at Cemetery Junction. See below for my question and the response. It is amazing that in so many words there can be so little substance! We will keep lobbying for action though.
QUESTION NO. 8 in accordance with Standing Order No.10
Road Safety Improvements, King’s Road
Over a year ago on February 21, 12-year-old Harsh Dharmendra was hit and killed by a vehicle while he was crossing King's Road at cemetery junction. The trial has now finished and justice has been done. However the Council has not implemented any road safety improvements on Kings Road yet. What action does the Council plan to take on this issue and when?
REPLY by Councillor Page (Lead Councillor for Strategic Environment, Planning & Transport):
I thank Cllr White for his question and the opportunity to up-date on this tragic case.
By way of background, colleagues will be aware that the tragic accident causing the death of 12 year-old Harsh Dharmendra resulted in the trial and conviction of the driver, Aadil Asghar, at Reading Crown Court.
Mr Asghar, 25, was jailed for five-and-a-half-years for killing Harsh by dangerous driving, banned for 5 years and will have to take an extended driving test before regaining his licence.
The jury convicted Asghar after hearing how his Audi fatally hit the 12 year-old at a pedestrian crossing as he sped down a bus lane in King's Road. The Judge told Mr Asghar that he alone was to blame for the death of Harsh Dharmendra as he tried to cross King's Road.
Mr Asghar had illegally driven his Audi down the bus lane in King's Road at about 45mph, and witnesses had seen his Audi cutting in and out of traffic earlier in the journey on February 21 2012.
The court heard Asghar had been involved in a collision in the bus lane in 2007, just 100 yards from the fatal collision, and was sent on a driving improvement course. He was given three points for exceeding a 30mph limit in March 2009. His Audi was caught on camera driving in another bus lane in Reading in October 2011 and he was convicted of jumping a red light in Earley in December 2011, leading to six month disqualification.
Sentencing, the Judge said he believed Asghar deliberately entered the bus lane in King's Road in congested rush-hour traffic. He said: "You did so because your manner of driving was aggressive, selfish and heedless of the safety of others. By your actions that day, you deprived a loving family of their young son. The simple fact is that he would be alive today if you had not behaved so irresponsibly. This was a wholly avoidable accident which caused a wholly avoidable death. Only you are to blame."
We all know Cemetery Junction is a challenging area that carries significant volumes of vehicular traffic, as well as catering for pedestrians that need to cross the road. This tragic fatality has put the area in the spotlight and we all agree that road safety and reducing casualties is a priority. As a member of the Eastern Area Steering Group, Cllr White is well aware that much of the work is focused on road safety and exploring options for reducing casualties.
Such busy junctions are to be expected within the urban environment and all road users are required to behave appropriately when travelling through the area. The Highway Code helps everyone understand what is required of them and if we all acted as we are supposed to then Cemetery Junction would be as safe as it could be.
The Council produces an annual Road Safety Programme based on injury accident statistics which identifies patterns of accidents that can be treated. This is an ongoing process and will include Kings Road even though safety improvements were carried out in 2005. As was clear in the tragic case of Harsh Dharmendra - where aggressive, dangerous and selfish driving took place - anything that we do is unlikely to stop irresponsible individuals who are determined to break the law.