If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Sunday, 6 November 2011

M5 crash

Let's get one thing out of the way: the M5 motorway crash was horrific and dreadful, and my heart goes out to those involved - perhaps especially to the loved ones of those who died, as it seems that some perished in an appalling manner, trapped in their cars while a firestorm went on around them. Living with the knowledge that this was how someone you loved ended their life sounds like a lifetime's heartache to me. This is not the time to be making contentious statements based on a partial understanding of what happened. There was a lady from RoSPA on the BBC News this evening trying to get the Government to 'think again' about the proposed raising of the speed limit from 70 to 80. No-one knows what caused the crash, not even the policemen dealing with it, so how anyone can go on the telly and use the dreadful events to promote their agenda as if the causes were all laid out and understood by everyone is a mystery - and leaves a pretty unpleasant taste in the mouth.

But this won't stop the hard of thinking from posting their incisive analysis. COLIN's response on the Yahoo News site is typical:
horrific crash on M5 many DEAD and they want to increase speed limit from 70 to 80 God help all of us
Here's the logic: for cars to run into each other on a motorway, they must have been going too fast. Therefore, lower speed limits are the answer.

Right; and wrong. On a motorway in thick fog, 30 mph is suicidally fast. On a clear day with light traffic, 90 mph is a safe speed. Any general speed limit is, by its nature, arbitrary. It's the speed in relation to the conditions that either avoids or causes accidents. And getting that right is all about training, not arbitrary enforcement of a number on a stick.

All the witness accounts that I have read say that the cars involved were travelling below the speed limit in any case, so how a higher overall limit would make accidents like this more likely is not obvious.

But watch for the usual suspects (I haven't seen Brake commenting yet, but I am sure they will) coming on the airwaves to call for speed limits to be ratcheted down yet again. Despite the fact that this is nothing, nothing, to do with this awful event.

I suspect that the outcome of any investigation of the crash will conclude that some people were travelling too fast for the conditions, which is so obvious it hardly needs saying, sadly. What will be more interesting is the way that various vested interests will use the incident to further their own agendas.


  1. These horrific news were broadcasted all over the place in Canada as well as the German press, and my heart goes out to the involved. No doubt that this will get exploited by different parties with a variety of different agendas. But I question the implementation of speed limits. In Canada we have speed limits all over the place, and yet horrible accidents still happen.

  2. " What will be more interesting is the way that various vested interests will use the incident to further their own agendas."

    Indeed - a case in point:

    "Is anyone else watching the horrific events on the M5 and wondering at which point the blame will be placed upon a public sector worker somewhere?

    It will probably be the police..."

    Except for the fact that it won't be. This cannot possibly be laid at the feet of the police, but that won't stop the 'Infamy, infamy, everyone's in for me!' mob, will it?

  3. The last report that I heard was trying to blame a local fireworks display for distracting the drivers. Even if that causes a couple of people to crash, why did the following cars not leave enough margin to stop in time?

    As you say, it's not speed that is the problem; simply drivers not adapting properly to the prevailing conditions.

    Most driving is now so dull (especially within the ridiculous speed limits) that it's easy for the mind to wander. Motorways might be the safest roads in the country, but that's in spite of how little attention people are paying.

  4. Blind to counter productive elements, callous campaigners will haul the freshly deceased from coffins, to aid political ends.


  5. Richard

    As you point out speed limit is a red herring. That stupid woman from ROSPA should not be allowed out. Edmund King from the AA (Channel 4 news)spoke much sense.

    Having driven around 2000 miles on British motorways in the past month I would hazard to suggest that if HGV drivers persist in sitting 1 or 2 car lengths behind each other, an accident such as the M5 tragedy is waiting to happen especially with the lane 3 crowd doing the same thing.. Obviously I would not wish to speculate in this case but it was evident from the scenes of carnage that many HGVs were involved.

  6. Indeed, a nasty piece of opportunistic shroud-waving from RoSPA. They are going to find that relatives do not appreciate some shallow PR leaping in to condemn their loved ones as having been complicit in their own deaths.

  7. Richard,

    There were a series of awful accidents on the M40 at junction 3, all caused by lorries (fitted with 56mph speed limiters, of course) losing control on the downhill stretch and breaking through the inadequate barrier between the carriageways. These were used to justify speed enforcement vans on the bridge at Junction 7, 20 miles away, to enforce the 70mph limit for cars.

    I'm not joking. I wish I was. For these people, anything that happens on a road is evidence in favour of either a lower speed limit or more enforcement

  8. "...all caused by lorries (fitted with 56mph speed limiters, of course) losing control on the downhill stretch..."

    It's utterly disgraceful, the government needs to do something about this stupid 'gravity'...

  9. Mick - that's a point I was going to make, but left out for reasons of (reasonable) brevity. To me, motorway driving is boring and I admit that once up to cruising speed I opay far less attention than I do on a twisty road. The speed limit is part of this - 70 mph just doesn't stimulate the cortex enough. I will confess that I have had more oo-er moments on long motorway stretches keeping to the speed limit than I have ever had caning the bejeesus out of a fast bike on a curvy road. The problem is not speed, it's inattention, and speed limits encourage inattention.

    Thank you all for interesting comments.


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