Posts Tagged 'accident'

Further on up the road…

Road closures can be inconvenient but necessary too - why is it that we close off roads and what might we be doing whilst they are shut?

The truck driver looked down at me from his cab and said angrily “I cannot tolerate any diversions, I must be allowed through“. Five hundred meters down the road was one of the worst car crashes I’ve seen, the air ambulance had just landed to take away a severely injured casualty and here was this bloke furious at the fact that he’d have to take an alternate route.

Unfortunately this is the reaction we sometimes get from motorists who perhaps don’t fully understand why it becomes necessary to shut roads. I can appreciate it can be inconvenient and will indeed cause delays but then there are good reasons for us needing to restrict the traffic flow and we only do so when we have no other real choice.

When it comes to us taking the decision to shut a road, there are usually two main reasons that we’ll have needed to do so – either the road is blocked meaning it couldn’t be used anyway, or there are casualties at the scene who can’t be treated safely whilst the road is in use. Often both of these factors apply.

When it is the case that the road is blocked, we usually need to wait for the recovery vehicles to come out and drag the damaged vehicles out of the way. We’re also likely to need the Highways Agency to attend and collect debris, repair any street furniture and to make sure that various engine fluids are mopped from the road surface.

With casualties, the ambulance and fire crews struggle to work safely if there is a live stream of traffic nearby. They may need to cut vehicles apart or the helicopter might require a space to land, both which will require plenty of room to do safely.

In the case of fatal accidents, there’s also the consideration that we might need to remove the deceased in which case there’s usually two options. We’ll either transfer them at the scene to another vehicle for transport to the hospital or alternatively, place the vehicle containing the body onto a recovery truck and then do the necessary at the garage. Either way dignity requires that the road is shut whilst we do so.

I can understand that people do get frustrated when we have shut roads and often this is because the solutions we put in place won’t be ideal. We have a very short amount of time to decide which roads to shut off and where they need to be closed and furthermore, roads aren’t designed to be closed. When you’ve got multiple side streets, residents wanting to get back to their houses and rush hour traffic too, things can get pretty difficult.

We’ll try our best to reevaluate how roads have been closed off when we’re able and if the roads are going to be closed for a length of time, will ask the council to put in place more permanent barriers and diversion signs. Either way it’s obviously not ideal and when you have motorists who don’t know the area, traffic congestion is unfortunately going to be inevitable.

As for how long we keep the road closed for, much depends on how serious the accident has been. When it comes to damage caused to the road and street furniture then the councils are usually incredibly quick at making repairs. New railings appear, bus stops are put back together and lamp posts seem to magically grow out of the ground – give it an hour and you’d not know there’d been an accident at all.

Crashes involving life changing or fatal accidents are likely to cause longer closures. The traffic units need time to investigate the cause of the accident and it’s possible the accident reconstruction team will want to take photographs and measurements to gather all the evidence they can. A serious crash site will be treated as a crime scene with access being restricted until the officers are satisfied nothing has been missed.

As soon as we’re able to we’ll reopen the roads and get the traffic flowing normally again. I know it’s frustrating to see an officer standing in the middle of the road you were hoping to drive down waving his hands around and diverting you elsewhere but unfortunately we usually have no choice.

We need to do the best we can to ensure that those injured in traffic accidents get the treatment they need and the best way to look at it is this – were it yourself in the upturned car or someone you know, you’d want us to do the same.

In a fast German car, I’m amazed that I survived – an airbag saved my life…

Wonderbra's poster campaign was famous for distracting male motorists. If you look very carefully you might just be able to spot a blog post below this picture...

You’re approaching a junction at low speed and notice from the brake lights of the car ahead that it is slowing. Your right foot begins to feather the middle pedal and you watch the needle on the speedometer begin to drift downwards. Glancing to your right you spot a billboard advertising a new series of your favourite television show. You didn’t know they were doing another series and from the looks of it all the original cast are coming back for another action packed run. When’s it starting though? You take another glance looking for the date when there’s a loud crunch, you’re jerked forward in your seat and then back again once you’ve traveled the short distance the seat belt will allow.

Unwittingly you’ve accidentally attempted to occupy the same bit of road as the motorist ahead. This rarely works and in this case has resulted in some very minor damage to both vehicles. No one’s injured but there are bits of broken headlights in the road. What to do?

This is an example of what we’d call a ‘damage only RTC’. It doesn’t necessarily need police involvement and is easily sorted through your respective insurance companies.

The first thing you’ll need to do is swap details. This means names, addresses and registration numbers. Once an accident has taken place you are legally obliged to remain at the scene and stay long enough to exchange these details, failing to do so is an offence.

If there is a reason that you can not exchange details at the time, perhaps because the other driver is not present, then you must inform the police of the accident in person as soon as possible and at the latest within twenty four hours. Again, failing to do so is against the law.

Any collision causing more than simply minor damage to the vehicles involved, for example if someone is injured, there is damage to something other than the vehicles or there is suspicion that someone involved has been drinking or is under the influence of drugs, then police attendance is required.

The standard policy is that if it’s thought someone has been injured then we’ll make the location of the crash as fast as possible. For us response officers that’s quick but for our traffic units that’s very quick indeed so it’ll not be long until you hear the reassuring sound of our sirens in the distance.

Upon arrival we’ll want to establish what has happened by speaking to those involved and may well conduct breathalyser tests to check that no one present has had ‘one for the road’ before climbing behind the wheel. We’ll then make recommendations based on our findings and seek to establish whether there are grounds to support a prosecution for any motoring offences.

The majority of smaller accidents are caused by drivers momentarily losing concentration and as such it’s rarely in the public interest to put the matter before the courts. This changes for larger, ‘life changing’ accidents though, the investigations for which can involve sealing roads off and bringing in specialist reconstruction teams to find evidence of what caused a crash.

Most motorists will be involved in some bump or other during the course of their lives and it’s not something that’s difficult to sort out. Obviously we’d prefer that motorists weren’t distracted by advertisements, funny dogs and nice rainbows but sadly this is always going to be a risk of putting us humans behind the wheel of a car. At least now it should be clearer as to what you’ll need to do should it happen to you.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

PC Stanley’s Twitter Feed

PC Stanley on Facebook

RSS West Midlands Police Latest News

  • An error has occurred; the feed is probably down. Try again later.

Blog QR Code


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 5,175 other followers

%d bloggers like this: