Countywide: What's taking so long?
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Ever asked yourself that question when you get caught up in a traffic jam?
Right at the front of that tailback there will probably be a collision and someone who needs our help. It’s not always a quick fix and almost certainly, that tailback will frustrate the drivers who are caught up in the chaos.
We’re not doing it to annoy anyone, there’s a good reason why it takes so long to deal with a collision.
To help you understand what is happening, this is how we deal with a collision and what might be happening ahead of you.
It all starts when we receive a call asking for our help. Our Force Control Room colleagues ask questions – lots of them – so we know what has already happened and what to expect when we get there. It may seem that they ask questions that can wait, but everything is relevant to us; we don’t want any further casualties or collisions to happen before we get there. They help us to help you.
Our officers will respond to that call and start to make their way to you, but they may be some distance away. If you see a police car behind you using blue lights and sirens, we would ask you to move to the side, but only when it is safe to do so, so that the responding officers can get where they are going to as quickly as they can.
When we arrive on scene, we too will get caught up in the traffic jam! If it’s on a motorway, we may use the hard shoulder to get to the front. Please don’t get out of your car to have a look ahead; it’s safer to stay in your car.
We want to make sure that no other car drivers are put at risk, and we do that in two ways. Firstly, we stop any traffic from trying to drive past the collision scene, especially when it becomes a crime scene and secondly, we will divert the traffic away from the area. That could mean that some cars will have to be turned around and drive, what in effect is, the wrong way! That takes time to organise and manoeuvre a lot of cars.
Our priority is always casualties. People that are injured may be dazed, confused, in shock or simply not able to move or tell us what has happened to them, so we call our ambulance colleagues.
Sometimes we need more than one ambulance and cannot move anyone until they are treated at the scene prior to going to hospital. We know that you too are concerned about injured parties judging by the number of people who stop to help us. On many occasions we are fortunate that doctors, nurses, dads, teenagers, off-duty emergency services personnel are nearby and stop to help us. It is much appreciated.
After we make the casualties comfortable with NHS professionals, we speak to witnesses to obtain their account of what happened; we take details of drivers, witnesses, car registrations, check that cars aren’t stolen and are insured; just some of the “paperwork” we do at the time. Gathering this evidence takes time but helps us to determine if anyone will be prosecuted or offered a road safety course as an alternative for minor collisions.
There is no other way to say this, but some collisions are caused through inconsiderate behaviour – those who drink or drug drive. In the case of a drink driver, we can see the visible effects of drunkenness - slurring or stumbling are good clues that someone is drunk – and we can also smell alcohol.
Drug drivers may not have an obvious smell, but there may be other physical signs.
Either way, we conduct roadside tests for drugs and alcohol and again, this takes time. We can’t let someone who has been drink or drug driving go off, so any arrest we make will add to the length of time the road is closed.
Then comes the clean up! Spilt oil or fuel from the vehicles concerned in any collision could make the road unusable for other road users once the road is opened, so we need help from the local council to come along and clean up. If there is only a small bit of debris, we clear it ourselves.
The last stage in the process is the recovery of any vehicle that cannot be moved or someone is too injured to drive away. Sometimes, with the public’s help, we can push a vehicle to the side of the road meaning we can reopen the road for everyone else. But sometimes, that is just not possible when vehicles are badly damaged or just won’t start. And until we move them out of the way, no one can drive past.
We wouldn’t want to hold up proceedings more than is necessary and we always thank you, the road-using public, for your patience. We know it’s not easy sitting in your car or lorry in this hot, summery weather, waiting for the road to reopen.
But if we all drive carefully and respect the Highway Code and other road users, we can make sure this doesn’t happen too often.
So, when you see us on way to a collision you know what to expect now and you know “what’s taking so long.”