House damaged in sat-nav mix-up

A lorry misdirected by a sat-nav caused damage put at thousands of pounds after it 'sideswiped' a home near Bungay. It's the latest in a series of sat-nav mishaps in the county.

A lorry misdirected by a sat-nav caused damage put at thousands of pounds after it 'sideswiped' a home near Bungay yesterday.

The drama unfolded as retired teachers Martin and Margaret Canter were reading the morning newspapers over breakfast in their kitchen at home on Ditchingham Dam at around 8.20am.

The couple, who are in their sixties, watched as a lorry stopped outside their house after the driver realised he could continue no further towards Bungay where the road becomes one-way, so tried to turn around in Falcon Lane, which runs alongside their home.

Mrs Canter said: 'I said to Martin, 'he's going to come in', half-jokingly. We've seen it so many times when they have actually managed to turn around. Then there was this almighty crunch.

'We ran to the front door and we couldn't open the front door or the gate.'

Her husband said: 'He stopped outside and blotted out the light for 10 seconds. Then he manoeuvred and tried to turn round. He had several goes at turning round and backed up the trailer, which was high-sided, side-swiped the house, knocked the porch down and damaged the hall. He then gave up trying to turn around. He drove away and did not stop.'

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The couple caught a glimpse of the company name on the side of the lorry through their kitchen window but could not get outside to note down the registration number.

Luckily, a 70-year-old neighbour came to their aid by chasing after the lorry on her bicycle, catching up with it as it reversed for hundreds of yards back along Ditchingham Dam before making its turn in a side road.

Mr Canter said: 'Even the new sat- navs say that it's a through road. I would say over 100 vehicles turn around here every day and more at the weekend. Many of those are not lorries, but we do get big articulated lorries. It's the articulated lorries that are the problem.'

Mr Canter said that drivers become confused where the two-way Ditchingham Dam, which is in Norfolk, becomes one way where it changes into Bridge Street in Suffolk, adding that some drivers ignore their mistake and continue driving the wrong way.

Neighbour Deirdre Shepherd, who lives on Bridge Street, sympathised with the couple, who remodelled their house two years ago and now face a hefty repair bill.

The impact caused part of the building to shift, leaving cracks in the walls and ceiling of the hall and rendering the front door unusable.

'They worked so hard - they put their heart and soul into it,' she said. 'It's terrible what goes on with the lorries there; the problem is that sat- nav has got it down as Bridge Street being temporarily one-way. We have to do something about it - it's so dangerous when they come down a one-way road the wrong way.'

Now the couple are calling for roadside signs to warn drivers not to rely on their satellite navigation devices but to read the signs, which tell drivers coming off the A143 roundabout, known locally as the chicken roundabout, that there is no through route to Bungay.

'The drivers get cross,' said Mr Canter. 'They go off feeling stupid.'

He added: 'People get quite mesmerised by sat-nav - they don't even know what town they're in.'

A spokesman for Norfolk police said the driver of a lorry had been spoken to, and that an investigation was ongoing.

Incidents linked to use of sat navs have been highlighted across the country:

t In 2006 drivers using sat nav systems through a North Yorkshire village called Crackpot found themselves driving along a track at the edge of a 100ft cliff. Concerned locals rescued drivers from the winding road using tractors after they became stuck and tried to turn around near the cliff edge.

t In March 2007 a narrow road with the sign 'No Through Road' which was partly made of mud caused problems in Winterton near Yarmouth, where vehicles, including lorries, had been increasingly turning off the main route from Hemsby. The problem was put down to a satellite navigation system hiccup.

t In March 2007 Hampshire County Council took the unusual step of putting up the first sign of its kind in the country warning drivers not to follow sat nav systems after lorries kept getting stuck down a narrow lane in a village near Winchester.

t A 20-year-old student's car was wrecked in 2007 when it was hit on a south Wales train line. She survived but blamed the sat nav for her accident.

t In January 2008 a foreign student who was sent to deliver a takeaway in Lowestoft misunderstood his car's sat nav system and drove on to the track as a train approached. The man wanted the turning immediately after the level crossing at Oulton Broad North station, but as he approached the crossing the sat nav told him to turn right, which he did 10 yards too early.

v In February 2008 it was revealed that sat navs are fuelling a rising number of 'bridge bashes' caused by lorry drivers. North Walsham is known to be the region's bridge bash capital, with more than 20 incidents in the past five years.

t In April 2008 a minibus taxi from King's Lynn ended up in a river after the driver stuck to his sat nav instructions.

The driver said he followed the guidance to continue straight ahead, even through it was taking him along the river bed. He was found sitting in the minibus with his trousers rolled up round his knees and fish swimming around him.