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Calls for street lighting at site where pedestrian Margaret Somerset died

By Shepton Mallet Journal  |  Posted: June 23, 2012

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The coroner who conducted the inquest into the death of a church organist from Bruton hit by a car while crossing the road will write to the Highways Authority to ask they reconsider their decision that a streetlight was not needed at the scene.

Margaret Somerset, 84, had been delivering the Blackmore Vale Magazine to a neighbour who lived across the road from her on Dropping Lane on Friday, November 25 at around 6pm.

She appears to have been crossing the road to return home when the accident happened. Mrs Somerset was knocked down by a car and died at the scene from multiple injuries.

Alan Parrot, driver of the Ford Focus Estate which hit Mrs Somerset, was on his way home and driving within the 60mph speed limit at around 45mph at the time but there were no streetlights to illuminate the narrow road.

Mr Parrot, who appeared at the inquest as a witness, said two oncoming cars flashed their lights at him. He checked his lights were on dipped beam not full beam before he saw what he thought was an object in the road about seven to 10 yards away.

He moved towards the kerb on the passenger side but struck the object. He told the coroner "there was no way he could avoid hitting it". He slowed down and got out of the car and said to the driver of the car behind, who had also stopped, "what the heck was that?". Then to his horror he realised. Another driver was already giving CPR and an ambulance was called.

Despite a witness appeal, the drivers of the two cars who had flashed their lights have not come forward so it is not known why they did so. The second witness, Paul Goodman, the driver of the car behind Mr Parrot's, said he also saw a car flash its lights but didn't know why. In the darkness he did not realise at first that the object was a person either.

The driver who administered CPR said the woman had a weak pulse, little pupil response and did not say anything while he was treating her. Paramedics attended.

The post mortem stated that Mrs Somerset's injuries indicated she was not stood upright at the time of the accident. She was wearing dark clothing and although evidence suggests she was carrying a torch light tests showed the driver would not have been able to see it.

The coroner said that Mrs Somerset was low down in the road on impact and was thrown across the carriageway coming to rest in the offside verge. He said "Mr Parrot would have had less than one second to react to her presence and the collision was unavoidable". There is no indication that he was exceeding the speed limit.

The coroner said perhaps it was possible she had been bending down to pick up a torch but there was no way of knowing. There was no evidence from the post portem to suggest a heart attack. The coroner concluded the case was one of accidental death.

Mrs Somerset's daughter Anne Harding said her Mum had asked the council to lower the speed limit on Dropping Lane (the B3081) but they had said no as nobody had been killed there. There are no working street lights on that stretch of road.

Mrs Harding added her Mum had asked Somerset County Council if they could fix the streetlight near the scene of the accident which had stopped functioning but had been told it wasn't needed any more.

Witness PC Steadman said he spoke to Somerset County Council but they do not consider the area heavily populated enough to lower the speed limit.

The coroner told Mrs Somerset's daughters at the inquest that he would write to the Highways Authority regarding the streetlight to ask them to reconsider what might be helpful.

At the end of the inquest Mrs Somerset's daughter Anne Harding said: "Mum loved life, lived life to the full, loved people and was always thinking about what she could do for friends and family.

"She was a gifted musician and teacher who passed on her skills to future generations. She thought little of herself but gave much to others. She played the organ in local churches, ran a recorder group, taught the piano and did so many things we never thought of her as old. There were 200 people at the celebration of her life."

Mrs Somerset was a valued member of the community and a respected musician. She will be greatly missed.

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  • NoStoPAsking  |  June 23 2012, 9:29AM

    1. The problem with flashing headlights is that the signal is open to mis-interpretation. The definition of standard signals using morse code would avoid this. For example the letter S ... for Slow down, and L for Lights, would reduce this problem. 2. It has long been advice to "wear something light bright and be seen" when walking on unlit roads at night. Sadly this advice is all too often ignored. Reflective arm bands only cost a few pounds, so if you or someone you know uses unlit roads at night for heavens sake buy and wear some!

  • siarad2  |  June 23 2012, 8:43AM

    Don't know the area but crossing a 60mph road seems very dangerous, lights or not. Surely a safe means of crossing is needed not a mere sop of lights.

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