Kent

Sheppey Crossing crash drivers offered alertness course

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Media captionAerial footage shows the chaos, as described by eyewitness Martin Stammers

Drivers who could have been prosecuted over a crash that injured more than 200 people are being offered a course instead, police have said.

Kent Police said 32 people had been offered driver alertness sessions after the 150-vehicle pile-up on the Sheppey Crossing in September.

The crash continued for 10 minutes as vehicles hit each other when visibility was down to 25 yards due to thick fog.

The force said a course would have a better outcome than prosecution.

Those who refused to go on the course would be prosecuted, police said.

Insp Martin Stevens, head of the serious collision investigation unit, said it was "quite simply a miracle" no-one was killed.

'Driving without lights'

Eight of those hurt sustained serious injuries and ambulance crews said 35 casualties needed hospital treatment.

More than 200 people received treatment at the scene.

The A249 bridge was closed for more than nine hours following the pile-up on the southbound carriageway on 5 September.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Drivers reported hearing the smashes of cars all around them as they tried to stop in the fog
Image copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The bridge was closed for more than nine hours to recover wreckage

One witness said visibility had been very poor at the time of the crash but drivers were still approaching the crossing with no lights.

Others at the scene described a mass of tangled cars, lorries, and a car transporter.

The investigation found fog was a major factor, but evidence suggested some motorists were not driving appropriately for the conditions.

Insp Stevens said: "While a significant number of drivers did precisely the right thing by driving to the conditions, our investigation has provided overwhelming evidence that in some cases motorists were not driving with due care and attention."

He said they were travelling at speeds that prevented them being able to stop in time due to the conditions.

"Rather than go through the process of taking these people to court, it was felt that offering an educational outcome would prove far more beneficial for the drivers involved," he said.

Prof Stephen Glaister, director of motoring charity the RAC Foundation, said: "So-called 'injudicious action' such as driving too fast for the weather conditions is a factor in about a quarter of all fatal road accidents.

"Humans are usually the weak link in the road safety chain and anything that can be done to change this should be welcome.

"However, drivers should not be led to believe that an education course is the automatic option where people are seriously hurt or even killed."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Concerns about safety were raised soon after the bridge opened in 2006

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