A crash on a safe road

Early in the evening of Sunday 6th May, a car careered off the road on the North Street railway bridge in Horsham, striking the railings beside the pavement.

Judging by the location of the impact, I would guess that the driver ‘lost control’ coming around the dog leg bend as the bridge goes over the railway, and ploughed straight on.

However, this is only a guess, because I have no idea what happened. The incident was not reported in the press. It won’t feature in any accident statistics, because no-one was hurt. Presumably there will be an insurance claim for repair to the damaged vehicle, but that’s about it.

The only reason I even know why the railings are all bent out of shape is because I happened to be passing this way shortly after the incident occurred, and asked a police officer why the road was closed (answer; they were clearing glass and debris out of the carriageway).

So this section of road will continue to be seen as statistically ‘safe’. In the last ten years, there has only been one serious injury on it -

Data from the ITO UK road casualties map

The failure to record incidents like this means that we do not have a true picture of the danger on our roads, particularly for vulnerable parties like pedestrians and cyclists. Drivers are increasingly insulated from the danger they themselves pose, and are increasingly less likely to be injured in collisions like this one. That shouldn’t tell us that our roads are becoming safer. The actual risk posed is being hidden.

In reality, it was only sheer chance that prevented a pedestrian from being seriously injured, or even killed, in this incident.

The bridge is a busy walking route, at all times of day, as it is the only direct route over the railway into most of north Horsham (there is another route, by underpasses, but it is quite circuitous if you want to avoid the bridge). In all probability, there would have been people – someone – walking on the bridge on that Sunday evening when the car went straight on into the railings.

Luckily they weren’t in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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4 Responses to A crash on a safe road

  1. Jono says:

    Hi Mark,

    This is similar to a thought I have been having. Every 2 months some locals meet up with our safer neighbourhood team Police, and go through issues effecting the area. I have lived here (Finsbury Park) for 30 years, and the three priorities for the ward never change: Vice, robbery and anti-social behaviour. We get given stats for what has happened and where. I brought up road safety at our last meeting, and was met with a bit of a blank by the Sargent. ‘Not our remit’ he explained. So I think I might ask for all road incidents where Police attended to be included in our meeting. This might start to highlight where the real risk to our lives is in our commmunities.

    Thoughts?

    Jono

  2. livinginabox says:

    Great post and important observation. This sort of event occurs all over the place. It’s hard to be certain from the photos which way the vehicle was going, but it looks like the driver was not looking at the road and instead of following the road, the vehicle went straight on, which seems more likely than veering off a straight road. I couldn’t tell from the pictures whether the uprights were bent to the left or the right and there weren’t any obvious relevant tyre marks that I noticed. I note that the central white lines are badly worn at the apex.
    My bet is distracted driving, probably involving one of the following:
    a) phone / facebook / email / texting etc.
    b) Radio / CD / GPS etc.
    c) smoking
    d) alcohol / drugs
    e) Reading [A to Z etc.]
    Assumes no adverse weather conditions.

    What’s needed is mandatory reporting of such incidents with a serious penalty for a failure to report.

  3. Sir Velo says:

    Would be interested in knowing speed limit on that stretch of road. If 30mph, it would be hard to believe a vehicle keeping to the speed limit could have lost control to that extent. I would have thought a little police investigation could have lead to a prosecution for driving without due care and attention.They should also have examined the tyres and brakes to ensure that they complied with minimum legal safety requirements.

  4. disgruntled says:

    A related unrecorded statistic is all those near misses (and even bumps) where a cyclist ends up being seriously put off cycling without anything being recorded (or just as a minor injury). A new cyclist knocked off their bike, who doesn’t break a bone or get concussed but who maybe breaks their bike and ends up bruised and sore is recorded as a ‘minor injury’. If they weren’t already a cycling nut, a common response is just to put the bits of their bike back in the shed and give up, discourage their children from cycling, probably put their friends and colleagues off … and so the ripples spread out through society. In fact I’ve had people tell me they’ve done that after a near miss, which wouldn’t trouble the statistics at all.

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