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Title: Pothole danger on Severn Bridge

Date: 15 March 2012

Question

At the old Severn bridge the road surface is dire, full of patches, potholes and rough as heck. So rough in fact that they have a "temporary" flashy amber sign (that has been there for over 2 years to my knowledge) saying "motorcycles and scooters 15mph". Now I understand the need to warn folks of poor road surfaces, but if the worst should happen, I hit a pothole and go down or even if I hit a pothole and it damages my bike and I was travelling faster than the advised 15mph where would liability lie? In my opinion riding at 15mph on the M48 will get you killed.

Answer

I have checked the Severn Bridge website and cannot see any details relating to a speed restriction being in place. Lane 2 is currently closed Eastbound for maintenance.

Section 41 of the Highways Act imposes a statutory duty on the Highways Agency to repair and maintain the highway. Were an accident to happen as a result of a failure to maintain then it seems to me that there will be a claim against the Highways Authority which administers the road repairs to the Severn Bridge. However, there is statutory Defence to this in section 58 of the Act provided the Highways Authority can demonstrate that they took such steps as are reasonably required to ensure that the highway is not dangerous to traffic.

Arguably imposing a speed restriction and a flashing light for a period of 2 years would not constitute “such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required to secure that the part of the highway to which the action relates was not dangerous for traffic” and as such it seems to me that primary liability will rest with the Highways Authority. However, if someone is riding in excess of the posted speed limit then contributory negligence will likely apply.

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