Satnav sent driver to her death down wrong slip road
LAUREN Smee was killed in a head-on collision after her satnav sent her the wrong way down a dual carriageway, an inquest was told.
The young English driver, who passed her road test three months before the accident, was driving in the dark when she approached a roundabout. Her navigation system told her to take the first left turn.
She failed to notice that it was an exit slip road and drove down it on to the A27, near Castle Goring, West Sussex.
Her Ford Ka collided head-on with a BMW driving in the correct direction.
Miss Smee died in hospital that night while Stuart Hope-Kirk, the BMW driver, suffered a fractured ankle and fractured spine. Miss Smee’s mother, Penny, said on Thursday that young drivers had to be extremely careful when using satnavs.
She called for training on them to be introduced as part of driving lessons.
“She was going to pick her friend up but did not know where she was going,” she said.
“She heard the voice of the satnav and took it literally. She was a very inexperienced driver.
“Satnavs are a help to youngsters on the road who don’t know where they are going but young drivers have so much to think about.
“If they are following the satnav they can’t always be aware of the road.
“If the satnav tells you to get off there you just think it’s telling you the right thing. She believed she was doing the right thing and didn’t question it.
“I think the use of satnavs should be included in some way in driving lessons. Young people need to be taught how to use them safely. Maybe it would stop a tragedy like this happening again.
“She was such a beautiful person, inside and out.”
She said her daughter was a student at Chichester College and worked as a barmaid in Fishbourne.
The inquest was told that Miss Smee was making a 16-mile journey from her home in Chichester, Sussex, to collect a friend in December last year.
She inadvertently strayed on to the wrong carriageway of the A27 near Worthing. Mr Hope-Kirk, 49, from Bexhill, East Sussex, told the hearing: “I saw what looked like strong headlights coming towards me.
“They were on my side of the dual carriageway. There was absolutely no time for me to react.”
After the accident, Pc Stuart Medlycott, from Sussex Police, used a satnav to follow the same route that Miss Smee had taken. He said: “The device said cross the roundabout at the first exit, the first lawful exit being Titnore Lane.
“The signage on the exit slip road is quite high so if you missed the two signs on the flyover bridge you may miss those.
“If Lauren was unfamiliar with that junction she may have had a momentary lapse in her concentration.” Pc Medlycott said that once Miss Smee was on the A27 she might have thought she was travelling the correct way along a single-carriageway route.
The Highways Agency has since improved signage at the junction, the inquest was told.
The coroner for West Sussex, Penelope Schofield, recorded a verdict of accidental death.