A FORMER roads policing officer fears a tragic accident at a notorious A40 roundabout is 'almost inevitable' unless drivers slow down.

Several crashes have occurred at the junction built for the ongoing 1,000-home West Witney development since it opened in August 2018, with some estimates suggesting up to 40 incidents.

Work to install new signs at the roundabout is set to begin in the coming weeks, but retired police officer Patrick Russell claims speeding is a 'major factor'.

The Ducklington resident, who served in the force for 27 years, has seen the aftermath of seven separate collisions at the junction and pleaded with drivers to curb their speed.

Read also: 'Tragic roundabout' to get new signs

He said: "People are going in too quickly, there's no doubt about it.

"There's definitely going to be a serious accident and the innocent person is going to come off worse.

Oxford Mail:

"I fear a car [using the roundabout] could be t-boned. Most vehicles have got built-in damage limitation, but the passenger side is the weakest point of the vehicle.

"I know how horrendous it can be for families and drivers. The worst job you can do is knocking on someone's door to say a family member has been killed in a road accident."

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Mr Russell, now 79, dealt with the aftermath of road traffic collisions from almost the moment he began serving in Witney.

During his first week on the job as a 19-year-old in 1959, the officer was called to an accident on the A40 that killed three teenagers.

He said: "We turned up in a van, put the bodies in the back and took them to the mortuary to clean them.

"From then, I wanted to get people to do something to stop this carnage."

In February, one resident who lives near the roundabout claimed they had counted as many as '15 or 16' crashes at the junction.

Read also: Calls for changes to 'tragic roundabout' after crashes

Thames Valley Police could not confirm whether the estimate of 40 crashes in the year since the roundabout opened was correct.

In a letter published in last week's Witney Gazette, Mr Russell flagged up two recent incidents where vehicles had 'struck the roundabout with such force that they were rendered non-drivable due to the extensive damage they had sustained'.

Oxford Mail:

He added that six of the seven incidents he witnessed were on the eastbound carriageway, where the majority of crashes appear to have happened.

The spate of collisions has also been blamed on the junction's design, but Mr Russell argued drivers needed to take responsibility.

He said: "From the direction of Burford, there's very few places to overtake until you get to Witney so drivers get frustrated, they unleash their cars at the bypass and suddenly hit the roundabout.

"Driving has got worse, everyone is more impatient and always in a hurry. Safety goes out the window.

"I've seen vehicles reduced to half their width as a result."

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The 79-year-old insists the five signs approaching the roundabout are 'more than sufficient', but called for more to be installed between the two carriageways.

He also called for a speed-operated flashing sign, which would be triggered by vehicles breaking the 50mph limit.

Oxford Mail:

New signs were recommended following a Stage 3 Road Safety Audit after the roundabout opened, with the safety measures funded by Oxfordshire Land Limited - the consortium of developers constructing the West Witney site.

A spokesperson for the consortium, which comprises Bloor Homes, Bovis Homes and Persimmon Homes, said: “Following the post-build review process, we agreed a set of modifications and are now in the process of arranging for the works to be completed.

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“Modifications include the installation of road studs. Signage incorporates chevron signs on the eastern approach central reservation, as well as the installation of flexible chevron signs on the roundabout of the eastern approach.”

Contractors will carry out remedial work on two entrances to the West Witney housing and commercial areas off Downs Road before installing the new signs.

Oxfordshire County Council spokesperson Chris Dyson confirmed the first phase is due to start in the next week, with the whole project finished 'in around 12 weeks'.

The roundabout will eventually serve a 257-home site on land off Downs Road, Curbridge, as well as the West Witney development.

A primary school and associated infrastructure will also be built at West Witney.