A haulage company owner and a mechanic were sent to prison for manslaughter last week after a horrendous road accident in Bath. Three adults and a toddler had died after a tipper truck with faulty brakes careered down a hill, crushing pedestrians and parked cars in its path.
Two months before, a different court sentenced a lorry driver to 10 years after an accident that killed a mother and three children. He was scrolling through music lists on his phone and smashed his “weaponised vehicle”, as the court heard, into a queue of traffic.
These two accidents stick in the memory not just because of the human cost – the merest snatches of the witness statements are heart-rending – but because, even more than most accidents, they should not have happened. For while the individuals concerned showed contempt for the law, it can be argued that they might have been more observant had not enforcement overall been so slack. A required brake check is not a matter of “health and safety gone mad”, but of regulation designed to protect all road users; ditto, zero tolerance of mobile phone use at the wheel.
I say this with particular feeling. Three weeks ago I was involved in a collision with a lorry on the M20 in Kent. I was driving, it was early evening, dark, and the road was wet. A lorry came up fast on my inside and indicated it wanted to come out. Both the middle and right-hand lanes were busy and I had nowhere to go. There was a loud crash of metal; a deluge of splintered glass, and the car span (fortunately) towards the hard shoulder, where I managed to stop it just before a ditch.