ROAD safety campaigners have praised plans they hope will help cut the death rate on a notorious stretch of the A31 by installing scores of new signs.

Work on a £600,000 scheme to improve the A31 between Cadnam and the Verwood Interchange has begun following a spate of fatal crashes.

Victims include 16-year-old moped rider Jade Clark, of Ringwood, who was killed in a hit-and-run incident last year.

She was travelling west along the A31 near Ringwood on February 21 when she was hit from behind by a Volvo XC90 driven by Brian Hampton, 58, of Ashford, Kent.

Plans to install 70 new and replacement signs as well as carrying out other work will result in overnight closures of the A31, causing disruption for drivers.

But campaigners say safety must come first.

Last year, members of Ringwood Town Council went to see Stephen Hammond, then transport minister, and demanded a raft of improvements including engineering works, new signs and a cut in the 70mph speed limit.

Mr Hammond said he was “minded” to introduce a 50mph limit but later ruled this out.

However, the Highways Agency has agreed to upgrade the signage in a bid to improve lane discipline and make motorists aware of slip roads.

Ringwood councillor Michael Thierry said: “This scheme will go a long way to preventing drivers from saying they didn’t know what they were doing because the signs were inadequate.

“I’m sure we’ll still have accidents and sadly the occasional fatality, but the new signs will make the road safer.”

Agency official Philip Sheppard said the signs would help drivers select the correct lanes at the right time.

Mr Sheppard said the scheme would coincide with carriageway resurfacing and repairs to roadside drains.

Work is due to start on Monday, with the westbound carriageway between the M27 and the A338 Ringwood roundabout closing between 10pm and 6am.

Similar closures will take place on August 26, August 27, September 1 and September 2.

Overnight closures will also take place between Poulner Hill and the Verwood Interchange on August 28, September 3, September 4 and September 8.

Drivers travelling westbound will be diverted via the A326, A35, A3060 and A338. Similar closures will take place eastbound between the Ashley Heath roundabout and the M27 on August 20 and 21.

Drivers travelling eastbound will be diverted via the A338, A3060, A35 and A326.