The sideswipe

I’ve now got around to responding to a question asked of me by commentator Penseivat in regards to the discussion about getting roads open quicker after accidents. (Penseivat seems to be a generally sound and sensible fellow who has posed me some genuine questions , so I owe him a proper response.)

So, if you were side swiped by another driver and, although no one is injured, your car is extensively damaged, you would be happy with the vehicles simply being pushed to the side of the road and no further action taken?


As blame or cause will not be considered, you would also be quite happy losing any no claims insurance discount and increased premiums in having the vehicle repaired or replaced?

What I would be happy with is the traffic cops taking some photos and noting any evidence that is visible in the area, like skid marks, or something usual on the road, while the injured people are looked after, and then while the cars are moved to the side of the road. That shouldn’t take too long. I wouldn’t expect them to spend hours doing it, though. That would be ridiculous.

In fact, it shouldn’t even take as long to gather such evidence as it would normally take to look after the injured and get the cars off the road. I don’t understand at all the idea that a team of police would spend hours and hours looking at a road, all for the one in a million situation where they find some evidence to indicate that maybe Driver A was at fault rather than Driver B. That seems to me to be an insane allocation of resources.

Any rational cost-benefit analysis involving a major road being closed for hours — leaving tens of thousands of people having their life shoved around, hospital appointments missed, children left unpicked up and panicking, client meetings screwed, local theatre shows cancelled because the cast is stuck on a motorway, planes missed and holidays ruined, grandparents who miss the chance to see their grandchildren for a couple of years, school trips cancelled, football and cricket matches ruined, divorces caused by the stress of being cooped up for hours in a traffic jam, cars that run out of petrol, county cricket trials missed, theatre auditions missed, job interviews missed — would tell you that none of this outweighs the small possibility that a car insurance case could be decided one way or the other.

I also note that this bit of Penseivat’s question is a total non sequitur:

and no further action taken?


As blame or cause will not be considered, you would also be quite happy losing any no claims insurance discount and increased premiums in having the vehicle repaired or replaced?

Why ‘no further action’? That wasn’t the claim. There is no logical connection between getting a road back up and running quickly and having, or not having, an investigation. In other words, it is perfectly possible for insurance companies, and even the police, to investigate a crash even if three extra hours have not been allocated for the police to comb the road for extra possible clues. The vast majority of required evidence will still be there: witness statements, photos of skid marks, photos of the cars, any dash cam footage that was taken, any traffic camera footage that was taken, and so on.

It would be ridiculous for the police to declare that an investigation must not proceed because they didn’t have four hours to find, say, the final resting place of a toupee which would have proved that the toupee wearer was criminally negligent in his driving. It’s not like ten years ago there were no prosecutions for dangerous driving. It’s not like insurance companies were unable to decide who was at fault in 2005. And that was before there so much extra footage available.

In other words, investigations can take place regardless of how long the police crawled up the road with a magnifying glass.

And, as Jim in comments noted:

P*ssing around taking measurements and gathering painstaking evidence would only be of use to wider society if it was to be used in a way that benefited wider society – namely that the courts and justice system prosecuted and punished dangerous drivers draconianly, and thus made the roads safer for everyone else.


But the court system does nothing of the sort – dangerous drivers are allowed to continue on their merry way causing accidents time after time, ignoring driving bans, ignoring the need to be insured, cocking a snook at everyone else.


So society at large loses thrice – it gets to pay for policemen and other civil servants to play at being CSI on the roads, it gets held up when roads are closed for CSI plod to do their pension qualification activity (sorry, work) and it still has to suffer the dangerous drivers that the justice system refuses to remove from circulation in society.

So that same risk-benefit analysis also has to look at what society gains from all this extra investigation. The answer seems to be: very little.

Jim in comments also makes this point about insurance investigations:

Ask anyone who has been in an accident where (objectively) they were not at fault, whether a) the other person was prosecuted or b) their premiums didn’t go up despite it being the other persons fault? My own mother was driven into by a car that drove out of its driveway without looking, so totally not her fault, yet her premium rose the next renewal, because quote ‘You’re in a higher risk bracket now’


Quite often insurance companies will call an accident ‘knock for knock’ even when there’s considerable evidence one party was at fault, the insurance companies don’t care, its swings and roundabouts to them, what they lose on one accident they’ll gain on another. So apportioning blame is hardly bothered with.

Update: Jeremy Clarkson and James Delingpole have continued to tweet about this issue recently:





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2 thoughts on “The sideswipe

  1. Thank you for describing me as seemingly generally sound and sensible. I do try to be so, especially being aware of the concerns of others. Last week, for instance, while out shopping I bought 2 loaves of bread. I didn’t really need the bread but all I had in my basket was a toaster and a bath plug, and I didn’t want the lady on the check-out to worry.
    As far as dealing with road traffic incidents are concerned, I did mention that I retired from the Police some years ago and, in trying to put ‘the other side of the story’ so to speak, any comments I made were based on the experiences and policies of the time. I have no idea if the policies of today are to cause as much delay and inconvenience to the public as possible (especially where Jeremy Clarkson is concerned and that is something I may still agree with – ex Policeman’s joke). As I feel unable to add anything sensible, perhaps someone still in the job may care to comment.
    Mind how you go.

  2. I’m interested in the fact that for a sideswipe Plod would turn up. Unless of course it was a hate sideswipe and they would be there in seconds. It’s usually exchange details unless there is an injury and if there is an injury we expect a bit of checking. Just not 5 hours worth unless it was a terrorist attack or a major incident involving lots of people.

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