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Foreign lorries 'now serious risk'

THE steep rise in foreign juggernauts on the M2 and M20 is posing a serious accident risk to local drivers, a Kent haulage chief has warned.

Hugh Thompson, managing director of Seymour Transport, New Hythe, near Maidstone, said the situation was worse since asylum seekers forced rail freight operators to curtail their operations.

He claims that because foreign drivers are used to less congested roads and have left-hand drive blind spots, they are more prone to accidents. According to Kent Police, foreign trucks are involved in an accident every 1.8 days - about four a week - in the county.

Mr Thompson says that mothers driving their children to school when the autumn term starts in September would be at particular risk if they used the county's motorways. "I think there's going to be a big accident soon," he said.

He is urging police to introduce variable speed limits in the county and raise public awareness of the risks. Foreign drivers did not have lower standards, he said, it was just that they tended to come out suddenly to avoid braking.

Mr Thompson said: "The overtaking manoeuvre has to be done at the last minute. The moment you see you've got an advantage, when you're driving an HGV, you tend to take it. The moment you lose that advantage, you're stuck behind for another 10 miles or so.

"When you're in a left-hand drive vehicle, you've got a blind spot on the right-hand corner. If you're in a right-hand drive vehicle, your blind spot is on the left-hand side but you tend not to get people overtaking on the left so there are fewer accidents that way."

The Freight Transport Association, based in Tunbridge Wells, said the number of foreign lorries on Kent roads was increasing every day. Heavy vehicles were involved in fewer accidents than cars, but when they happened they were usually serious.

"I've no real reason to suggest that foreign drivers are at all inferior to UK drivers," said FTA spokesman Geoff Dossetter. "But on the other hand, when I'm driving abroad I forget where I am and make the odd mistake.

"No matter how much the experience, you do revert to natural driving habits at some stage."

A spokeswoman for Kent police said there had been no "significant" increase in recent accidents involving foreign lorries. But because of the blind spot, police encouraged people to take extra care when overtaking.

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