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M5 Crash Kills Seven, Injures 51 – Will This Affect Government Decision Over Raising Motorway Speed Limit?

Posted on the 07 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

M5 crash kills seven, injures 51 – will this affect government decision over raising motorway speed limit?

M5 motorway. Photo credit: Andy Welsher, M5 motorway crash that left seven people dead and 51 injured may have been caused by fireworks. The BBC reported that police investigating the incident have described a nearby fireworks display as their “main line of inquiry”. The pile-up involved 34 vehicles, including several lorries, and is one of Britain’s worst motorway accidents.

Fireworks to blame? The cause of the crash, which took place on Friday night in foggy conditions, has yet to be determined. Avon and Somerset Police are investigating the theory that smoke drifted over the carriageway from a fireworks display at Taunton Rugby Club, dramatically reducing drivers’ visibility. The club issued a statement on its website expressing sympathy to the victims and their families.

“Taunton Rugby Club would like to take this opportunity to extend our thoughts and prayers to the families and friends of those who have been affected by the tragic incident on the M5 motorway on Friday 4th November. As a family based community club Taunton RFC held a fireworks display on the evening of the 4th November. Taunton RFC is working closely with Avon and Somerset police to assist with their investigations,” said the statement on the club website.

‘Pitch black’. The Daily Mail interviewed a survivor of the crash who said the motorway suddenly became completely dark: “It was literally like someone turned out the lights. I have never seen anything like it. It was like a wall of pitch-black fog,” he said. The survivor described scenes after the crash as “complete and utter carnage”, with intense flames, smoke and explosions.

Orphaned. The Telegraph reported that crash survivor Emma Barton lost her father and sister in the M5 incident – just a few years after her mother died. The 19-year-old is currently in a coma and is apparently unaware of the tragedy, according to the paper.

Comedian slammed. Comedian Jimmy Carr has apologised after posting a joke on Twitter that some users took to be related to the smash. According to The Mirror, Carr tweeted: “An (sic) couple married for 66 yrs died within 3 days of each other. That’s nothing. My grandparents died on exactly the same day…. car crash.” The tweet was later removed, and Carr insisted it had nothing to do with the M5 crash.

Safety questions. Gerry Holt reported for the BBC that experts say motorway accidents of the magnitude of the M5 crash are rare: “In fact, they say Britain has not seen a road traffic accident on this scale for more than 20 years. The only comparable incident, according to the AA, was a major crash involving 51 cars on the M4 in Berkshire in March 1991, which left 10 people dead and 25 injured,” he wrote. However, Holt also pointed out that, according to road safety charity Brake, motorway crashes are more likely to be fatal than accidents on other types of road because of the speeds involved.

Speed limit. The UK government has been considering raising the motorway speed limit from 70mph to 80mph in England and Wales. Transport Secretary Philip Hammond said in September that the move would have economic benefits, as it would cut journey times. Writing on The Guardian‘s Comment is Free, Peter Wilby argued that ministers should rethink their attitude to road safety, given that the number of road deaths as started to rise. Wilby said that according to the Transport Research Laboratory, raising the speed limit would lead to 18 more deaths per year, but that ministers “clearly think that a price worth paying to enter what they call, with unconscious and grisly irony, ‘the economic fast lane’”.


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