There was a terrible multi-car pile-up on the M5 last weekend. Lots of people died, even more injured. A terrible tragedy, a terrible waste. The papers report that it was due to a dense pall of smoke from a nearby organised firework display. They’re wrong.
Other say it was the excessive driving speeds. They’re partly wrong.
The main culprits were the drivers themselves for driving too close to each other. When visibility is reduced you slow down, but the car behind you, which is driving too close for the speed it is going at, ploughs into you. From there everything goes pear-shaped. The conscientious driver who slowed down is the first victim.
But what will happen? The speed lobbyists will get their way. There will be a huge investigation into firework displays because someone somewhere surely has to be held accountable for the loss of lives, and as the drivers are already suffering the finger of authority will direct itself to something implausible. Sensibly, we are all aware that a tower of drifting smoke is no worse than dense fog and every driver ought to be aware of that. But firework displays will become the scapegoat and before we know it they will be banned or overregulated, or there will be a legal requirement to make them smokeless.
In my opinion what we need is not speed traps, but distance traps. Even if a car is going at a fairly sedate 30 miles an hour it can cause a fatality if the driver is incompetent and driving recklessly. If they are driving practically on the bumper of the car in front then a collision is bound to occur. The speed is not necessarily the problem, it is the idiot behind the wheel. Just as neither the gun nor the bullet are the problem, but the maniac in whose hand it resides. Okay, that was overkill (pardon the pun) but you get the point.
Despite being the country with the safest traffic record we have our fair share of dumb drivers; arrogant beasts that believe they are in full control of their vehicle and can handle it better than anyone else on the road. But what if the person behind you can’t? Or the person in front, or the one heading towards you in your blind spot?
I went on a speed awareness course (I was doing 34 in a 30 mile zone) earlier this year and one of the most effective few minutes of the session was when they showed us a mock-up of the dreadful 120-car pile-up on the M1, using matchbox toys. It was near-endless minute after minute of carnage. The heat was so intense that several cars fused together. It took months to extract sufficient information to work out what had happened and in some cases to correctly identify vehicles and occupants.
This is the video that ought to be shown to every person who is caught driving too close to the vehicle in front. I understand that there will soon be a penalty for ‘tailgaters’, but a fine won’t stop them.
I think about this everytime I have someone too close behind me, especially when my children in the car. Several times I have pulled over to let the tailgater hurry off on whatever desperate errand they’re on. Yesterday someone couldn’t be bothered to wait for me to pull over and overtook me in our sleepy little village. The 30 mile speed limit was completely ignored metres from a hill and a blind bend. The moron behind the wheel took his eyes off what little road was visible to give me a glaring look.
If anyone ever deserves to learn how horrible a crash is it’s idiots like those, unfortunately they usually take some innocent with them.
Oh, and there’s also dirty windows and lights. Hold on, that’s me! See? So easily overlooked. Hang on while I make a note in my to-do-list.
Finally there are those that don’t bother to have their eyesight checked regularly – the car gets an MOT to make sure it is roadworthy, but what about the arrogant fool behind the wheel? How many people do you know who haven’t had their eyes checked in the last year? And how many of them still drive?
Off my soapbox now – I need it to go and wash some windows and lights.