Sheppey: Crossing Crash Investigation Report
20 January 2014, 15:41
Police who found enough evidence to prosecute 32 motorists following a 150-car pile-up on the Sheppey Crossing have offered to send them on a driver alertness course instead.
A senior police officer said handing the drivers a chance to go on the course would be more beneficial than putting them before the courts.
The decision to spare drivers prosecution follows a four-month investigation by specialist collision investigators and case review staff from Kent Police.
The massive pile-up on the Sheppey Crossing last September 5 was believed to have been the biggest accident in thick fog in living memory.
Eight people suffered serious injuries and 200 others were treated at the scene following the crash, which started at around 7.15am.
It then continued for 10 minutes as cars and lorries crashed into each other on the bridge's Sittingbourne-bound section in visibility that was down to 25 yards.
Inspector Martin Stevens, head of the serious collision investigation unit at Kent Police, said it was "quite simply a miracle'' that no-one was killed.
Fog was found to be a major factor, but evidence from investigators suggested some motorists were not driving appropriately for the conditions.
There were reports of some motorists driving "like idiots'' before the crash, which closed the crossing in both directions for more than nine hours.
Letters have now been sent to 32 drivers, offering them the chance to enrol on an awareness course rather than go to court, Kent Police said.
As part of the one-day, self-funding course, drivers will sit through an interactive classroom session followed by a supervised drive in front of an instructor.
A Kent Police spokesman said that motorists who decline to take up the offer of attending the course will automatically be summonsed to court.
Insp Stevens said: "This has been a thorough investigation of what was the biggest collision in the county and certainly the largest our team has had to deal with.
"The emergency services and partner agencies worked together to support those involved in the collision. Attention then quickly turned to the recovery process and getting the crossing back up and running by the early evening, which was no mean feat.
"Clearly the thick fog that descended on the bridge that day made driving conditions incredibly challenging and was a contributory factor in the resulting collision which stretched from the approach right across the bridge.
"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 and were travelling at speeds which prevented them being able to stop in the distances that they could see ahead.
"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.
"Driving at speed without clear visibility is without doubt extremely dangerous and the fact there was not a single fatality on the day is quite simply a miracle.''