Stranded on the road to nowhere
23:50 GMT, 27 December 2012
Saddest story of the week was the death of two young brothers, aged four and ten, in a crash on the northbound M6 in Staffordshire on Christmas morning. Their mother, who was driving the car, survived, but another woman passenger was also killed.
They were on their way to a family wedding when their Ford Focus came off the road and struck a tree.
Police immediately closed the motorway in both directions as rescuers and an air ambulance raced to the scene.
Tragedy: Saddest story of the week was the death of two young brothers, Adnan Habib, aged 10 (left), and Mohammed, aged four (right), in a crash on the northbound M6 in Staffordshire on Christmas morning
Teacher Colin Mann, from Birmingham, who was stuck in the resulting traffic jam, spoke for everyone when he said: ‘It’s always devastating to hear of children losing their lives, but for something like this to happen on Christmas Day is beyond heartbreaking.’
We all appreciate that in the event of a fatal accident the emergency services must be given room to do their job. But patience begins to wear gossamer thin when the road remains closed for hours on end for no good reason.
The accident on the M6 happened at 11.25am. Though the southbound carriage-way was reopened in the afternoon, the northbound carriageway stayed shut for several hours until early evening.
Pictures from the scene showed the wrecked vehicle being loaded on to the back of a recovery truck on the hard shoulder while half a dozen blokes in hi-viz jackets stand around chatting in the middle of the motorway.
In the background is a three-lane tailback of stationary cars and lorries stretching goodness knows how many miles into the distance.
Other photos show stranded motorists and their passengers out of their cars, stretching their legs and going nowhere fast. I’ve no idea what time these photos were taken, but it’s still broad daylight.
There is no visible debris, so why couldn’t one or two lanes have been opened at the earliest opportunity
Wreckage: Pictures from the scene showed the vehicle being loaded on to the back of a recovery truck on the hard shoulder while half a dozen blokes in hi-viz jackets stand around chatting in the middle of the motorway
Most of these people will have been on their way to spend Christmas Day with friends and family.
With no public transport available they had no choice but to take the car.
There can be no justification for forcing them to spend a moment longer than absolutely necessary stuck on the M6.
The police say they have to investigate the crash. But by all accounts there were no other vehicles involved. Everything points to this being a tragic accident.
In the brave new world of British traffic policing, however, there’s no such thing as an accident. Every crash site is considered to be a ‘crime scene’.
Cue miles of yellow tape, a riot of hi-viz jackets and a bunch of dopey birds in designer boiler suits with tape measures, theodolites and clipboards. Naturally, the road has to be closed in both directions for as long as possible, regardless of the inevitable inconvenience and disruption.
Congestion: While the police have a duty to the dead and their bereaved relatives, they also have a duty to the rest of us to keep the traffic flowing
No thought is ever given to the blameless motorists caught up in this chaos. The police no longer believe it is any part of their job to help people get to their destinations with the minimum delay.
Even minor shunts, where no one is injured, result in roads closing for hours while the Old Bill play at CSI.
Partly this is because of the suffocating, risk-averse, tick-box, elf’n’safety culture, which is the hallmark of 21st-century bureaucracy. But it’s also because, as I have remarked before, everyone seems to be living in their own movie these days.
Consequently, every incident — no matter how trivial — is escalated into a major production number.
The decision to turn the M6 into a car park on Christmas morning wasn’t a one-off.
Staffordshire police have got previous when it comes to converting a drama into a crisis.
Regular readers will remember when they sealed off the M6 toll road in the summer and called in the anti-terrorist squad and the chemical warfare boys because a passenger on a London-bound coach was spotted taking a crafty drag on an electronic cigarette.
Better safe than sorry, eh
Across the country, every single day, millions of journeys are ruined because roads are closed arbitrarily at the drop of a hat.
Heaven knows the cost in missed appointments, lost business and high blood pressure.
How, for instance, do you quantify the effect on a family who have missed their package holiday flight from Gatwick airport because the police have shut the M23 in both directions after a lorry has shed a tyre
There will probably be those who will accuse me of using these tragic deaths as a stick to beat the police. I can’t help that.
What I can do is reiterate that this was the saddest story of the Christmas holiday. We can only begin to imagine the devastating effect on those whose world has been turned upside down by a random accident that claimed the lives of two brothers and a young woman. Our hearts go out to them.
But ruining the Christmas Day of thousands of other people by forcing them to spend hours stranded in their cars unnecessarily was an act of callous indifference on the part of the police.
They need to be reminded urgently that while they have a duty to the dead and their bereaved relatives, they also have a duty to the rest of us to keep the traffic flowing.
You can't leave your hat on!
Caught: It would appear that Tesco's 'no headgear' policy is justified after all
Carol Greaves writes in connection with my item last week about the 69-year-old great-grandmother being told to remove the hood of her parka in a Tesco Express because she could be a robber.
Carol tells me she had a friend who worked as a store detective in Tesco. There was one regular customer who always wore his trilby in the shop.
Her friend thought this was suspicious since gentlemen of a certain age would never dream of wearing a hat indoors.
So she asked him to remove it, only to discover a packet of bacon on his head.
It would appear that Tesco’s ‘no headgear’ policy is justified after all. At a push, you could hide a whole turkey and a Christmas pudding inside the hood of a parka.
The thickest thief in Britain was nabbed after sending a text message to a friend which read: ‘I’ve told you 20 times — don’t ring me when I’m out robbing.’
This might encourage some cops, who already spend half their time staring at CCTV screens, to waste the rest of their shift monitoring social networks.
And instead of actually leaving the station to arrest criminals they will start sending out text messages such as: Put ur trsrs on ur nickd LOL 🙂
When I saw the mayhem and madness at the Selfridges sale, I thought it looked familiar.
Take away the ‘Dior’ signs in the background and it could have been the Red Cross famine relief squad throwing food parcels from the back of a lorry.
Bargain hunt: Allegedly civilised men and women were clambering over each other to get to bottles of cut-price perfume
What is it about the prospect of a ‘bargain’ that unleashes the inner savage in some people There’s something especially grotesque at any time about allegedly civilised men and women clambering over each other to get to bottles of cut-price perfume, let alone in the middle of a recession.
On second glance, I realised that what they actually looked like was the crazed mob of Crouch End zombies in Simon Pegg’s movie Shaun Of The Dead.
Thousands of Americans are shunning the gym in favour of a new treatment which involves freezing fat to get rid of love handles, muffin tops and spare tyres. I can only assume that news of this latest fad has already crossed the Atlantic.
How else would you explain the behaviour of the woman pictured in yesterday’s Mail being fished out of the freezing sea off Sidmouth, Devon
I’d give it a bit longer next time, pet.
Incidentally, when I showed the picture to my wife, she asked: ‘Is that the Duchess of York’