Traffic chaos caused by accidents – we need to listen to local radio and look to our own driving

On Wednesday there was traffic chaos in Berkshire. A lorry driver sadly lost his life after his vehicle over-turned, closing six lanes over two carriageways on the M4 for nearly twenty hours.

Fortunately, I turned onto BBC Radio Berkshire as I left home and, on hearing about the problem, was able to turn around and work from home for the day.

Others were not so fortunate. There was a seven mile tailback at one point and drivers were sitting in their cars on the M4 for up to seven and a half hours. The record of 7.5 hours, aired on Thursday’s Andrew Peach show on BBC Radio Berkshire, was from a driver who went onto the M4 at junction 13 at 8.45am.

There were calls for better signage – ‘why wasn’t junction 13 closed off much sooner’ etc etc

I’ve been driving on all weekdays on the M4 for nearly thirty years and roughly once a year there is a really bad accident which stops everything like this.

I’m going to sound like an advert for the BBC and say that if everyone listened to Radio Berkshire then many more people would have been able to avoid getting stuck in the queue on Wednesday. “Peachy” and the team had been banging on about the problem for nearly three hours before 8:45am, so the record breaking driver with their 7.5 hour wait could have avoided such grief by listening to the radio. You don’t even have to listen to local radio all the time, you can set your radio to ping it up when they do a traffic report (via ‘Radio Data System’).

We should remember that there is a family somewhere whose loved one is never going to be sitting down at the meal table with them again as a result of Wednesday’s accident.

And instead of blaming other people – the highways authority, the police, the government – whoever it is – drivers should examine their own actions and start obeying the highway code, which would lead to less accidents in the first place. The code says you should “allow at least a two-second gap between you and the vehicle in front”.

You should be able to count “one hundred and one, one hundred and two” slowly between when the vehicle in front passes a fixed point and when your vehicle gets to the same point.

And let’s remember that Rory, Radio Berkshire’s traffic guru, said there were four major accidents on Wednesday morning in the Berkshire area. No doubt this was all due to the very heavy rain that night and morning. The highway code says you should at least double the distance between you and the vehicle in front in wet weather.

If drivers spent more time thinking about the poor people who lose their lives in accidents and their own driving, which from my observation is generally appalling, then there’d be a lot less accidents in the first place.

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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  • Jenny Barnes 14th May '16 - 4:52pm

    There are far too many cars on the road, and too many drivers who routinely break the law. Individualism ” drivers should examine their own actions and start obeying the highway code, which would lead to less accidents in the first place.” doesn’t work. It’s a huge privilege to be allowed to drive a 2 tonne vehicle at up to 70 mph (or in this case 44 tonne at up to 60) – but you wouldn’t think so from the way the road law is enforced. Speeding, using mobile phones, tailgating, taking stupid chances, RLJs, overtaking on blind bends… The triangle of accidents starts by eliminating the risky behaviours that 9 times out of ten don’t cause an accident, or even a near miss. That’s the only way to eliminate the near misses and the accidents. Highway design can help, but there are clearly a number of drivers who are not safe on the roads. I notice that the crash occurred at 04:50. Now driving at that sort of time can make sense to avoid traffic, but I wonder if the driver was properly rested. If someone is overtired, and carries on driving, they may just blank out for a few seconds, and there’s your accident. I’ve seen a lot of people take those sort of risks too, thinking “it won’t happen to me”. There was a similar accident on the M25 quite a while back where the vehicle drove into one of the bridge supports – and you’ll see the big bumpers that have been put in to protect the bridges.

  • T A GILBERT 15th May '16 - 6:09am

    I suspect that we shall look back on the era of thousands of deaths a year on the roads with the same incredulity that we do concerning thousands of deaths on the railways. Technology is probably the long term solution, but much stricter enforcement of rules would be a help in the short. This is, I think, one area where liberals ought to support significantly greater restrictions on the liberty of the individual to do as they please, because of Mill’s ‘harm’ principle. There is no liberty at all for the thousands of dead, and often much less for many more who are seriously injured, both mentally and bodily. Road safety is also a vote-winner: the first campaign I was ever involved in was in for a new underpass on the A12 at Capel St Mary.

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