Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Procedures that close roads for hours.

Back to work tomorrow, ready to face whatever our nation's roads can throw at me. Hopefully I will not have the endure another stationary delay of three and a half hours on the M4 motorway like I did on Sunday.

BBC News website shows...

Motorway is closed after accident
The M4 was closed for several hours due to a fatal accident in Wiltshire. The incident happened just after 1500 BST on the westbound carriageway at junction 14 (Hungerford), shutting the motorway to J15 (Swindon East).

Wiltshire Police said a Middlesex family was in a blue BMW which crashed. A baby girl was thrown from the car and flown to hospital but later died.

Westbound traffic between Newbury, Berks, and Swindon, came to a standstill but delays later eased. Police said the BMW had mounted a bank.

The Wiltshire Gazette and Herald writes...

Baby killed in M4 horror
A baby girl was killed when she was thrown from her parents' car in an accident on the M4 near Swindon yesterday. The child was in the back of the car travelling on the motorway with her family when the dark blue BMW suffered a tyre blow out. The car spun out of control, crashing into the verge on the westbound carriageway near Liddington at about 3.15pm yesterday. The child, from Middlesex, was flung from the vehicle as it rolled on its side and onto the grass bank. The girl's family escaped the crash unharmed, but the baby was pronounced dead on arrival at Bristol's Frenchay hospital.

PC Glenn Powell from Wiltshire Police's Northern Roads Policing unit said: "This was a single vehicle road traffic accident. A blue BMW was travelling westbound on the M4 when they had a rear wheel blow out.

"The vehicle mounted the nearside bank and overturned on the grass verge, throwing a young child from the car and unfortunately she was declared dead on arrival at Frenchay hospital."

Traffic police closed the motorway following the accident while the vehicle was recovered from the road and drivers were told to use alternative routes. Wiltshire Fire and Rescue service sent four fire engines to the scene of the crash to rescue people trapped in vehicles. Another fire engine was sent from Berkshire. A Wiltshire Fire and Rescue spokeswoman said: "We received a call at 3.20pm and were called to reports of persons trapped but did not have to cut anyone out. "Three pumping appliances and an aerial appliance from Swindon were dispatched as well as an appliance from Berkshire. "Vehicles were made safe to make sure they didn't burst into flames."

Jill Wood, site manager at Frenchay Hospital, confirmed a baby girl involved in a collision on the M4 was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The Maidenhead Advertiser writes...

A nightmare journey lay ahead for motorists heading away from Maidenhead on the M4 yesterday afternoon. Traffic began piling up after the motorway was closed for several hours due to a fatal accident in Wiltshire and people were stuck for up to four hours.

The incident happened just after 3pm on the westbound carriageway at junction 14 (Hungerford), shutting the motorway to J15 (Swindon East).

Mark Long, 26, who was travelling from Cox Green to Cornwall, said: "It was quite possibly the worst journey to Cornwall I have ever had in my life."
He was stuck near junction 13 for four hours and added: "There wasn't any information and nobody knew what was going on. Then it got dangerous because people started getting out of their cars and motorbikes were flying up in between the lanes."

Thames Valley police were called out and closed junctions 13 and 14 and began diverting people off the motorway to try and ease the build-up of traffic.

Spokesman Sue Mahoney said: "There were huge jams all the way back to our area. Traffic was turning round, reversing, going the wrong way on the motorway. They were stuck there for hours and people were losing their tempers.
"The matrix information signs weren't working and about 100 people got out of their cars and started walking along the hard shoulder. It was general chaos."

Wiltshire Police said a Middlesex family was in a blue BMW which crashed into a bank. A baby girl was thrown from the car and flown to hospital but later died.

The Daily Telegraph prints a reader's letter today...

Sir - I was stuck in motionless traffic on the M4 recently and realised there had been an accident. The radio told us that the air ambulance had taken the victims to hospital and that some investigations needed to be carried out. Yet what about the welfare of the people who were left stationary between junctions 14 and 15 for four hours until dark?

People were walking up and down the carriageway between the cars and on the hard shoulder, many exercising themselves, dogs and small children. There was always the risk from traffic in the opposite direction but it was not reasonable to expect us to stay cooped up in our vehicles when we had no idea for how long.

I particularly felt for those with children, and the elderly. There was no refreshment for anyone except what some happened to have with them. Most had at some time climbed over fences seeking privacy to relieve themselves, risking injury in the process. If it had been a hot day many could have collapsed from dehydration.

Surely there should be some rule that considers the welfare of those in the queue and enough space cleared to take the traffic round the accident and/or off the motorway, albeit slowly, no matter how bad it is?

The radio kept giving advice to people who had not yet reached the scene but that was no good to us. The police were very slow to stop traffic joining the queue or to take it off at the previous junctions. The process should be speedy enough to close the motorway at preceding junctions so that only the traffic exactly between the junctions affected should be there, waiting to be dealt with. The radio reported that the queue went back to at least junction 13. How did that happen?

Obviously the accident victims must receive the attention they need first. However, other people's welfare should afterwards be given priority over the investigation. My husband and I were on a fairly short journey and had not stocked up for a siege. I shall remember water in future, but why is the scene of the accident more important than the rest of us? Is the process of law more important than humans?

Apart from a skid mark there was no sign of the accident. We had imagined a pile-up that couldn't be cleared easily. Why was one lane not cleared? The traffic going east was still hardly moving – although why was a mystery.

I have heard of other such occasions when one accident shuts the motorway for hours. What is the police policy?

Rosemary J. Wells, Wootton Bassett, Wiltshire

...So now I will add my view to this incident.

I was stuck stationary on the M4 westbound just past junction 13 for three and a half hours. The traffic started moving again at 21.15 which means that Wiltshire Police had closed the M4 motorway for a staggering 6 hours due to a single vehicle accident. The gantry sign just before junction 13 declared "Junction 15 - 21 miles - 18 minutes" - this was a bare faced lie that encouraged drivers to proceed forward into a stationary motorway car park.

I am disgusted with the attitude and conduct of Wiltshire Police. There was no need to close this motorway for 6 hours. The Police appear nowadays to close roads at the drop of a hat. There was no problem with the road surface and no obstruction of the carriageway as the offending car was parked on the grass embankment. Even if some of the carriageway was blocked traffic could have driven around the obstruction before it was removed by recovery operators.

Crimes can still be investigated but roads do not have to be closed. I think our Parliament should enact legislation that prevents the Police from closing a road for longer than 30 minutes maximum without the authority of a high court judge.

Wiltshire Police patrol the county that speeding motorists should fear most. In just one year, its top 10 cameras issued 42,417 fixed penalty notices between them, amounting to £2.5 million in fines and some 127,000 penalty points. Each penalty sees drivers fined £60 - plus three penalty points. A 30-mile stretch of the A303 across Salisbury Plain is included four times in the county's top 10 cameras.

Factor in the cost of the travel delays on Sunday - time and the cost of fuel used by idling vehicles - and Wiltshire Police are adding a lot of avoidable extra costs to the British public. The police wonder why they are losing respect from the public, yet the way they close roads and harass drivers sets people strongly against them.

In other countries the police swiftly deal with accidents and traffic moves on. Foreign police forces are not obsessed with preserving a possible crime scene but realise that they are paid to serve and protect the public rather than piss them off at every opportunity.
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