Monday, November 07, 2011

Blame Game

The terrible accident on the M5 at the weekend has turned out, mercifully, to have killed fewer people than at first feared. The emergency services faced a gruesome task with their usual professionalism, and the police, as they must, are investigating exactly what happened.
The crash is likely to have been caused by a combination of factors, including restricted visibility, rain, and the lethal mix of cars and heavy lorries moving at speed.
In our democracy we accept a trade-off between safety and convenience, and most people are relaxed about a road death toll that equates to a medium sized airliner crashing every couple of months. If the motorway limit is lifted to 80 mph there will inevitably be a rise of some sort in casualties, but many people think that its a risk worth taking. Of course 80mph is already the actual speed of the right-hand lane on most motorways, but human nature says that drivers who now do 80, a speed at which you are most unlikely to get a ticket, will nudge up to 90. I drove to Bristol and back at the weekend, and there were quite a few cars moving at well over the hundred, often tailgating until people moved out of their way. So we can expect to see another look at the 80mph proposal, politics being what it is.
Bonfires and fireworks are another problem. On my journey on Saturday night I saw several large bonfires within a short distance of the M4, but no sign of smoke. But fires and local climate vary, and you cannot guarantee that any one fire will not put smoke across a major road. I do hope though that we can learn from this without the need to prosecute anyone, unless the most gross recklessness can be proved. Bad things happen, and it is not always necessary to drag people through the courts to ensure that lessons are properly learned.

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