Made to pay for crossing dramas

Careless drivers who flout safe crossing times on a dangerous North tidal causeway should be forced to pay if they then have to be rescued, angry islanders have said.

Holy Island causeway

Careless drivers who flout safe crossing times on a dangerous North tidal causeway should be forced to pay if they then have to be rescued, angry islanders have said.

The road to beautiful Holy Island, off the Northumberland coast, is completely submerged twice a day by the sea, with large signs at each end of the causeway to alert drivers.

But on Friday, a family from Aberdeen became the latest to flout the warnings - two hours after the last safe crossing time.

Two adults and two children had to be rescued from their sinking car by a lifeboat from nearby Seahouses.

It's the latest in a long line of rescue attempts, some involving search helicopters from RAF Boulmer, each costing thousands of pounds to execute.

Last night one local businessman said enough was enough. "The situation on the Holy Island causeway is becoming completely stupid," said Gary Watson, who has run the Island Store on Fenkle Street for the last 17 years.

"Some motorists are just not taking any notice of the warnings, so it's time the authorities came down hard on those who ignore them.

"There should be new signs stating that crossing outside the safe times is strictly prohibited, and anyone doing so will be liable to pay if they need to be rescued.

"If people knew they faced paying thousands of pounds, they wouldn't do it."

And Mr Watson added that foreign tourists were more conscious of the tide times than their British counterparts.

"I am always being asked by foreign visitors to double-check the safe crossing times," he said. "They don't want to get caught out. In my 17 years here on the island, I can honestly say that the vast majority of rescues have been down to the stupidity of British people."

Seahouses RNLI spokesman Ian Clayton says while the lifeboat service would never charge to carry out a rescue, the threat of financial loss could be a deterrent.

"The local authorities need to take the lead on this issue," he said.

"It's very frustrating because every other avenue has been fully explored, and there has been excellent publicity from the local media, but some drivers still choose to ignore the very real warnings.

"Our biggest fear is that someone will be killed if their car runs off the road.

"Signs carrying a warning that drivers will be charged would be a very low-cost measure and may have a significant effect."

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