When there is a serious accident, the police have, over the last few years, started closing the road, often causing delays of several hours for the motorists caught in the tail-back. This did not happen in the past and doesn't seem to happen in other countries

Why is this idea important?

With the delays of hours, or with motorists being forced onto roads they don’t know, and are unsure of where to go, the drivers are stressed to get to their destination in time. Accidents are far more likely to happen on non-motorways, especially when lost and  behind schedule. Local traffic and pedestrians have the extra delays because of the diverted vehicles, and are at more risk of accidents also. All this extra risk to bring possible prosecutions which will do nothing to reduce accidents in the future. This policy is poorly thought out and counter-productive.

29 Replies to “Stop police closing roads to investigate accidents.”

  1. I agree! Ive noticed this happening more & more. I dont remember there ever being a law passed that gave police such powers?
    Obviously they have to investigate a serious accident & have the road cleared of debris etc but what seems to be happening is they automatically close the road for hours at a time. With modern technology ( digital cameras etc the closure should be less not longer than the past.
    Often if there is a serious accident that doesnt result in a blockage of the road, many hundreds of cars may pass it without stopping if they see any injured are already being attended to so why does it then become important to close the whole road when the police arrive?

  2. Seems absolutely ridiculous that police can close roads for ages after the incident is “over”. Yes close to attend to casualties and clear up the mess but open again immediately. I don’t care who is to blame. It’s not a crime scene. it’s an accident. Accept it. Millions of pounds of taxpayers money just to apportion blame seems way over the top. It takes several plods several hours to work out what happened whilst real crimes are taking place elsewhere. Open the road and send those plods to do some real work.

    1. Are you nuts? How is it not a crime scene? The Police HAVE to investigate to PROVE whether or not it was an accident or something else. If someone wasn’t paying attention, if someone has been seriously injured, then it is a crime scene. Serious court cases happen as a result. If you were the injured party or someone accused, wouldn’t you want the professionals to find out the truth!

      1. This is actually ridiculous police only close the whole road if the crash was serious enough to cause a death or injuries which could potentially result in death or the injury is life changing. Imagine if it was one of your loved ones would you be fine with a couple of photographs and a assumption of what happed or would you like them to spend their time to find out what really happened. At the end of the day this type of evidence will only with hold in court is there is no tampering with the scene and unfortunately cars driving through the road can ruin the scene.

  3. It does seem crazy to inconvenience thousands of people for several hours to determine whether or not a crime has taken place. Surely it makes more sense to assume that no one set out to cause a crash and therefore an accident has occurred. I have been close to the scene of a major motorway crash and witnessed several police measuring up for hours after the debris has been cleared. To what end? Those officers would be much better employed investigating more obvious and deliberate crimes or preventing another accident by getting back on patrol. People missed flights. Babies needed feeding. Old people needed the toilet. Parents missed picking up their kids from school. We all agree that casualties need to be attended to and that debris needs clearing but once done, open the motorway immediately. Move the debris as soon as casualties have had their needs met. I wonder if accident scene investigation is an “easier” job than dealing with real crime. We are always told that police resources are limited but obviously not that limited!! I think that more severe cuts in police budgets would force them to prioritise a little more and stop this crazy practice. As a tax payer I strongly object to my hard earned wages being spent on this practice. It seems that everything has to be investigated these days until a finger can be pointed at some poor soul whose concentration lapsed or who made a mistake. And we all make mistakes when driving. There feels like a degree of self importance involved here. We all have equally “important” jobs to do but most of us do our best to minimise inconvenience to others. If someone was particularly reckless and this behaviour appeared to cause the crash then police would be told this at the scene by the many witnesses who are usually involved. Otherwise, as the above person says, accept it’s an accident, clear the motorway, get the traffic moving and do something more useful with my hard earned taxes please.

  4. The police currently have no accountability regarding road closures following a serious accident.There is no regard to the welfare of road users who end up being trapped for hours. The recent closure of the A31 across the New Forest in January 2014 is a good example of how the police are over zealous in preserving a so called crime scene at the expense of road users who were trapped for up to 6 hours. This situation must not be allowed to continue for much longer. A balance needs to be struck between a police investigation and the adverse impact of road closures especially where drivers welfare is put at risk because they are trapped. A target closure of no more than 2 hours should be allowed in virtually all cases. That said a public debate needs to air the issues but let’s be clear the current police attitude and policy is not sustainable and it is only a matter of time before there is a serious incident or tradegy that arises from an uncessary prolonged road closure.

    1. Typical of this country full of elf and safety this never happened years ago. Also we never had highways England lot patrolling the motorways in brand new 4X4 vehicles what does that cost.

  5. Cannot believe what I’m reading, really can’t.

    Firstly, if there is a serious accident, then there are potentially offences – dangerous driving, drink driving, death by dangerous driving – as with any crime, these need to be investigated fully in order to bring those responsible to justice. This is why the road is closed, so that specialist officers can attend with specialist equipment to record evidence, photograph the scene and complete forensic analysis. This takes time, and as with any crime scene the slightest disturbance could destroy evidence or ruin the whole investigation, and in turn potentially somebody who has killed someone because they were driving like an idiot could get off scott free. That is why the road is closed for so long.

    Secondly, police only close the road for a full investigation if there has been a serious injury (i.e. life threatening, lost a limb, death etc). A ‘minor injury’ collision would not cause a prolonged road closure.

    Thirdly, the officers that deal with this sort of thing are Roads Policing officers (traffic police). Their job is to atend and deal with collisions, as well as policing the roads. They do not go to other incidents, other response officers deal with the bread and butter fights/domestics etc – so for those of you saying they should be elsewhere dealing with other things, you’re wrong – they are doing EXACTLY what they are paid to do.

    So wind your necks in the lot of you, and just be gratful that it’s not someone you know who’s been hit by a dangerous or drink driver.

    1. I\’m assuming that James is a copper or otherwise associated with the police service (apologies if this is not the case)
      I have seen many cases in the last year when the police have closed a major road, even though there has been no serious injury, so I believe that James\’ post is inaccurate.
      Even if he is correct, he makes no attempt to balance the need for the police to be able to investigate the incident with the need to minimise inconvenience to the public.
      The police (service) seem to have largely forgotten that they exist to provide a service to the public and this is why Theresa May is determined to bring about reform

  6. lets put this issue into context?
    1, how many photographs can you take
    2,how many officers does it take
    3, why do they not control traffic on the diversion, leading to emergency services having to drive on the other carriageway and then stop which means more road closures.
    4, only a very small percentage of accidents ever end up in court action.
    5, are the police commanders more concern with work related compensation claims by its own staff if they pick up a broom.
    No one is stating that the injured need attention, but does closing the road need as much as six hours attention?

  7. Get off your fat arses and walk for a change. Instead of thinking you have a right to drive where you want, and that everybody should get out your way and not delay your precious journey!

    1. Just because one drives a car does not mean that one does not walk or cycle come to that. I do both as well as drive a car but a journey from northern Ireland to Somerset in a day is just not possible by any other means but car or motorbike if one takes luggage. As far as rights are concerned, I and all other motorists pay very heavily for the use of the roads and they are not maintained, nor are they adequate for the traffic that is using them. We do not get value from our taxes in this area or many others either. We certainly don\’t need major roads (the M6 carries more traffic than any other road in the UK) closed for hours and sometimes more than a day when there is an accident. Sorry but |I don\’t agree that there are other options like cycling although I enjoy it except for fairly short journeys with little luggage, one would need a week for a journey such as the one I undertook on the 28th of last month and then the luggage would have been severely constrained. We had our dog with us too and he isn\’t too great at cycling!

  8. It is vital that dangerous drivers who cause injury or death are brought to justice and that may mean detailed police investigation. However, it should often be ;possible for a one way system to operate.

    1. I had an interesting conversation with a police inspector on this point when I complained to the IPCC about road closure. The police college training is that roads should be closed following an incident that may result in a death so that a full investigation can be carried out. I said that I assumed that cost benefit analysis had been carried out which balanced the benefit of an improved chance of a successfull prosecution against the cost of delays to thousands of motorists and increased risk of accidents due to volume of traffic on minor roads. At this point, the conversation broke down

  9. Someone was pronounced dead at 2.30pm on the M5 southbound exit yesterday after being hit by a coach, the road opened at 8.00pm. This was in addition to the two days of closures on the express way due to an unexploded WWII bomb. Roads are closed for excessive duration and there does not appear to be an incentive to reduce inconvenience for motorists who pay +£60 billion in taxes for the roads so all those on cycles can go around showing the moral high ground. Everyone using the roads should pay for them or move over so the motorist can get past.

    1. I agree totally Maxell. Last Saturday (30/09/17) the M4 was completely closed (west-bound at least) between junctions 17 & 18 from the middle of the night until 5:00pm. There were long queues at junctions 15 & 16 and then of course a huge queue at 17 where we were forced to leave and fend for ourselves on unfamiliar roads. What is normally a slightly over 2 hour journey from Barnet to Bristol was turned into a 5 hour marathon, and our late arrival with relatives messed up their plans also.
      I intend to write to my M.P.. the Minister of Transport and the relevant Police authority about this scandalous practice.

  10. Plod close roads even for non serious accidents for a day because they *can*. In Scotland there are some roads which when closed entail a couple of hours extra journey, sometimes more. And they won’t say how long the closure will be. Pets need fed, planes to catch, jobs to go to, tanks need filled, food supplies, hospital appointments, insulin supplies etc, thousands of people severely delayed, some critically. Indeed it may in instances result in deaths. Of course accidents must be investigated but plod massage their primitive egos. Some countries there is legislation for the time they are allowed to close off roads except in exceptional circumstances.

  11. This motorway closure is a problem, and as someone else commented on here, break it down into actual actions necessary to ascertain dangerous / reckless driving. i.e. DUI is pretty straight forward ‘blow into this please’. Speeding? The cars in question can be taken away for evaluation as to what speed they were going at the time of impact and photos taken of marks on the road. Looking at any CCTV is done after the event.
    Anything else, such as distracted driving (mobile phone, eating) can be ascertained fairly quickly at the scene by witnesses, and if there are none, there isn’t a lot you can do outside of checking CCTV and questioning the driver. Beyond taking photos, taking statements, there isn’t a great deal more to be done at the scene. Accidents do happen and there is no need to shut the entire motor way for hours on end.

  12. Police close roads and I don’t even they know why and how like f they should need to take photos and measure up for example. If you asked one of them at the scene they wouldn’t have a clue why they needed to have it closed for 3 or 4 hours for a minor incident. The whole process needs reviewing as it could be speeded up a hell of a lot but they can’t be bothered to put a sensible system in place.

  13. Police need to have their powers curbed on this matter as it is now a major drag on the economy in general and for some individuals it goes beyond inconvenience to the potentially life threatening. The roads are the arteries of the nation and should be kept open unless there are extreme circumstances that prevent it. Take for example yesterday 28th March closure of the M6 around Tebay, at least 10 miles of solid traffic on the northbound diversion most of the queuing on dual carriageway, then funnelled into a set of traffic lights in Kendal. I dread to think how long this took to clear. This sort of thing is happening too often now, the balance is not right. Technology has surely advanced, I may be naïve here but for example could a drone with a highly accurate camera not be used to record the accident scene?clear the scene and open the road. I think those of us who use the roads are pretty fed up with this policy of closing the road for reasons that appear quite often not to merit it. We pay very high taxes to use the road through fuel and all the rest of it, we are not receiving value. A journey from the south of France recently demonstrated the difference, hundreds of miles on autoroute with only one set of road works, no contra flow and no hold ups. Hit this country and almost immediately there are lane closures, contra flows and a road closure. By the way I do know that one pays tolls to use the autoroutes but I have travelled 10s of thousands of miles in many countries all over Europe and America and have never run into the kind of problems that occur very frequently in this country even on road systems that are not toll roads. Enough is enough.

  14. It’s an absolutely ridiculous situation that thousands of motorists are delayed due to the idiotic actions of one or two people. I come up against these closures regularly. I was stationery for six hours once on the M6 because someone decided to chuck herself off one of the over passes. That was the longest single delay I’ve been in but I’ve been in plenty ranging from twenty mins to a couple of hours on other occasions and been forced to take long detours on unfamiliar routes when roads have been shut down. I think there is a big over reach in police powers taking place in these situations and it needs to be limited. Clear the mess and get the roads open I say.

  15. Earlier this year I had to make a 100+ mile diversion after a drunk stole a car and LEFT the road so no obstruction but the police closed the road for 8 hrs-it beggars belief

  16. As a recovery operative in the 1970s / 80s
    the police instruction was clear the road lets get it open.They measured and investigated whilst recovery was in progress.End result road open asap .If multiple vehicles involved
    they were moved to the hard shoulder or side of the road where at least one side of the road was open with an officer directing traffic.
    Having travelled many miles in Europe i have never encountered clousures and delays not to mention night clousures for no apparent reason that we are subjected to in the uk.
    Heath and saftey taken to the extreme.
    If we were all to follow HSE policy to the letter we would not leave our houses.

  17. I have experience of another aspect to this which doesn’t seem to have been discussed, specifically the tragic, unintended consequences of some prolonged road closures during police investigations. In one case the gridlock caused by complete closure of the M275 (all lanes in both directions) prevented other emergency vehicles from moving – there was at least one preventable death in an ambulance that couldn’t get to hospital. In another case, the prescribed diversion from the A75 took all traffic, including the largest articulated lorries, to routes which were unfit for such traffic in one direction in daylight, let alone two after dark. This put more drivers at considerable risk. I understand the arguments for thorough investigation in situations where there have been or could be fatalities and/or subsequent prosecutions but this surely cannot be at the expense of further lives or significant danger to life?

  18. Was the law changed to allow this nonsense ?
    If so , When ?
    Was it Britain \’ Polishing a Turd \’ by an over
    embellishment of a E.U. directive ?
    Shame on \’ Senior \’ plod for agreeing to let their
    men do it . \” Power corrupts…..\”
    It would provide us with excellent ammunition
    to get some change if a University would do an
    in – depth and exhaustive study of what this costs
    the nation – probably billions per year !
    I expect to be hounded by my local plod for
    having the cheek to criticise them !

  19. There is one point: skid marks on road surfaces take time to “develop” and become fully visible (it’s to do with volatile material in the surface reacting to the heat of a skid) So a brief closure may be justified in extreme circumstances. Other than that, a simple scan with a smart phone from three positions would be accomplished in minutes.
    That leaves the time needed to clear wreckage and recover casualties.
    A police 4×4 with a winch and an intelligent crew could move nearly all wrecks from the carriageway, apart from HGVs.
    There remains the possiblity of serious casualties requiring on site intervention before transfer to hospital.
    Very few of these scenarios warrant the frequent long term closures.

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