Seven killed including four in the same vehicle and 51 injured. These are the stark headlines from the horrific accident on the M5 near Taunton, Somerset. Such incidents serve to remind us of the potential dangers when driving. I am still shocked two days after the event and hope that it will make me even more cautious on the roads.

Contributing factors to the crash appear to be fog, rain and smoke from a Guy Faulks bonfire drifting over the motorway. By the time this article is published no doubt more will be known, but what is already understood is the heroic actions of the emergency services and members of the general public who did their very best to help those trapped in their vehicles. What would you or I do in similar circumstances? We would like to think that we would instinctively help, but until such a thing happens who knows?

Driving in fog

Driving in fog or smoke can be terrifying as we all know. Whilst fog is not commonplace in the Costa Blanca, I have had to use my fog lights a few times and only this week, Mount Callosa under which I live was completely hidden by fog. What to do when driving in these conditions? Good question as it’s very difficult to judge. Advice given by the authorities is not to hang onto the lights of the vehicle in front, but this is so tempting as at least you know that the road ahead is clear, but too close and in the event of an accident you hit him. Driving slowly, whilst the sensible thing to do is quite scary due to the fear of a faster car hitting you in the rear. The safest thing to do is stop as soon as is practical, but this is easier said than done if your need to be driving is pressing. The same applies if driving in snow or on ice. I guess that most of us do what we think is right in the circumstances and hope that all other drivers think the same way

Accidents and me

Since living in Spain, I have been involved I more accidents and incidents than I ever remember back in the UK, so maybe this is why this incident has moved me so much. In fact the last accident was on the same day as the one in Taunton, but any comparisons are fatuous; nevertheless several lessons were learned which you may find helpful

The worst was my fault was when I pulled out of a petrol station directly into the path of a Saab which was written off. I had completely misread the road markings.
My car spun 180 degrees and ended up against the crash barrier on the opposite carriageway becoming badly damaged. As you can imagine I was pretty shook up. The driver of the Saab was an elderly Englishman who was quite philosophical about it and his lady companions did much to soothe my nerves which considering the circumstances was human kindness at its best. Later, my then boss whose car I was driving turned up. Whilst I totally understood his anger at his car being smashed up; his callous treatment of me as a fellow human being was not pleasant. The Guardia arrived to take details, samples of breath and issue a fully justified fine.

On that occasion the paperwork was taken care of by others, but another accident was somewhat different as my car was rammed from behind whilst stationary at a set of traffic lights. Two young men made a mess of their dad’s car, but they were very cooperative as we filled in the statutory paperwork which was identical except mine was in English, theirs in Spanish. These forms are designed to record your version of events in words and pictures for sending off to the insurance company and are triplicated with each driver handing over a copy to the other. The forms are issued by all insurers and should be kept in your car along with the policy. An interesting aside to this was that the Policia Local drove up, asked what was wrong, offered no assistance, but ordered us to drive away from the lights as we were causing a tailback. Mmm Thanks.

Discretionary power

My accident on Friday 5th had a very interesting twist and showed different Policia Local using their wide discretion for everyone’s benefit, though whether you all agree with what they did is doubtful. My colleague, Leigh was driving with me as passenger when we were hit side on, crushing both doors, by a car that appeared from a junction to our right whilst travelling the wrong way down a one-way street. The incident attracted a lot of spectators, but happened right outside of the police station, so the boys in blue were literally on the scene, took us all inside to complete the formalities which again consisted of completing the insurance forms. They were as kind and helpful as they could be and diffused what could have been a difficult situation as one of the onlookers had said that the driver had been drinking all afternoon and just driven off from the bar. After the other parties had disappeared, the policemen said quietly to Leigh and I that whilst they understood that the driver had been drinking, no breathalyser took place because had the test been positive, the other driver’s insurance would not have paid the claim and we would then have to take the driver to court to claim for the repair of the car. If the driver had no means to pay, there is a central government fund for such circumstances, but you can just imagine how long that process would take? So the police apparently did us a favour, but at the same time let off the other driver from the consequences of his drinking, though I guess they will catch him some other time

Thank God for heroes and have a safe drive-always