The end of the shift was nearer than the beginning. I had eaten my dinner back at the office and was catching up on some writing when the call came through on the radio. It was my patrol area so I acknowledged the job on the radio, grabbed my coat and headed out of the door. One of my colleagues was up to his ears in paperwork too and began to rise. “Stay there” I said. “I’ll shout up if I need you”.
Jumping into my traffic car I fired up the engine, all the emergency equipment and made haste to the scene of the accident some 2 miles away. Traffic was still busy but thinning out after rush hour and I made good progress. I turned onto the road involved and noticed immediately there was no traffic coming in the opposite direction. A good indicator that the road was blocked. I came around the bend to see an ambulance in the middle of the road with blue lights flashing about 500m ahead. I used the handsfree kit to announce my arrival at the scene and pulled up behind the ambulance.
It was dark already and as I walked towards the paramedics I could see a long queue of traffic built up behind a stationary vehicle. A motorbike was strewn down the carriageway in a 1000 pieces. I approached the paramedic. “What have we got?” I asked him. He glanced up at me. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t shake his head. He just looked. His facial expression and the look in his eyes were enough. I called for backup, organised road closures and began the process of investigation for another fatal road traffic accident.
The motorcyclist was dead. He had almost decapitated himself on the front of a car coming in the opposite direction having swerved to avoid a vehicle turning across his path. The resulting 4-5 months of investigation led to the prosecution of two other drivers and the subsequent inquest. A harrowing time for all involved but minimal compared to the family who suffered the loss.
On Monday this week I had planned to finish work early. I had to attend the Archdeacon’s Visitation to be appointed for another 12 months as churchwarden. I had to be there. Work was chaos and I didn’t get away at 5pm as I had hoped. I left at 6.30pm and had to get home and then on to the city. I’ve seen too much carnage on the road to be silly but I was making good progress and traffic was light. I reached a village and found the road closed. “Why tonight?” I shouted to myself in frustration as I quickly processed a diversion route in my head. I turned away and began the alternate route home. I got home in good time and made it to the church just as the service started.
When I got home that night I was chatting with wifey about the day and the road closure came up. She shared my frustration as many of you would when your journey and plans are interrupted. I know only too well that a road closure doesn’t necessarily mean an RTA but I did think briefly about anyone that may be involved or hurt.
The following day my wife sent a text message. She was upset having had to notify her staff that one of their team members had been killed whilst driving his car the day before. It was the same accident I had been diverted from. It’s a small world.
How many times have you put your toe down because you were late? Ever noticed how when you are late the minor delays that would ordinarily cause you no concern at all suddenly become bigger? We get angry with other road users because “we” ourselves are not taking responsibility for the fact we are late because we didn’t plan properly or have just been unavoidably delayed. it’s sort of unreasonable to expect another road user to abandon careful driving or simply get out of your way because they have read your mind and realised your predicament. Your emergency is not theirs.
I wrote a while ago about our 24/7 society and how we are all in a rush to get somewhere. We often get behind the wheels of our cars and shut ourselves into our own world. We drive selfishly and take risks because we are in a rush. When we take risks the consequences can be fatal for ourselves or others. Are we all so confident in our ability to drive that we feel immune from danger? When people drive foolishly and dangerously they are taking risks with the lives of others they are not entitled to take. This sort of stuff happens to someone else though right? Think again because it happens to you.
You don’t have to look far to see what happens across the country;
I do not apportion blame in any of the above incidents. They simply give an indication of what is happening on our roads on a daily basis. Having spoken to many drivers over the years whom I have prosecuted for serious and fatal road traffic accidents there are two common themes. The desire to turn back time and regret. We often only consider the true consequences of our reckless actions when it has all gone horribly wrong. By then it is far too late.
I challenge you. Next time you go out on the road think about every other road user as a person. A person with a husband or wife or family. A person who is loved and needed. A person who doesn’t deserve to fall victim to your need for urgency. Think of that person as though yourself and the impact your loss would have on those who love you. Is getting impatient and pulling out across traffic putting you and others at risk really going to save that much time? Is that phone call so important that you can’t stop and call back when safe to do so? Is that journey so short and hazard free that it’s not worth putting your seatbelt on? Is it really worth the risk of killing someone by driving home drunk?
Too many people die on our roads unnecessarily. Many of these incidents are avoidable by the application of a caring and selfless disposition. Do you really Think! about the consequences of your actions?
If you have been involved or lost a loved one in road traffic accident and need help then BRAKE may be able to help you.