History on 27th May

Britainís Worst Road Accident

Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire The 27th of May 1975 AD

Though the number of road users has continued to rise year-on-year, it may surprise some that the number of road deaths annually has plummeted since the figure reached its peak in 1966, when 7985 died on Britainís highways. Vehicles have improved, with better brakes and the introduction of airbags a major help; and testing Ė the MOT test brought in in 1960 Ė is another reason for the fall, key systems like brakes checked as part of that work.
It was, however, a brake problem that led to Britainís worst road accident, a coach crash in rural North Yorkshire in May 1975. Pensioners from Thornaby-on-Tees on a mystery tour organised by a former Mayor of the town were travelling on a 45-seater coach, heading for Grassington where they were to have tea, having visited Ripon and Knaresborough already.
On an exceptionally steep downward slope on the B6265 between Pateley Bridge and Hedben the stand-in driver missed a gear, and when he tried to slow the coach with his brakes they rapidly overheated and failed. In the subsequent investigation it was found that part of the braking system was inoperative. The coach careered down the one-in-six hill, slammed through a barrier and a bridge parapet, and fell upside-down into a garden 5m below, the glass-fibre roof of the coach crumpling uselessly. Before he died at the scene the trapped driver told those who arrived to help the injured what had happened, his story confirmed by experts later. In all 33 people died in the crash.
Accident black-spots these days tend to have remedial work done on them to reduce their dangers. It is a tragedy that such thinking had not apparently applied to Dibbles Bridge and its approaches, the scene of the 1975 crash, for in June 1925 another coach crash on the same spot had claimed seven lives.

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